Over the course of last year, strides have been made to detach any and all stigmas from issues regarding mental health, though obviously work remains to be done. Some organizations, however, have been working toward this goal for some time already, such as the Mental Health Association of Tompkins County (MHATC).?
MHATC was founded as part of a national organization, Mental Health America, which works in the community to both further education on mental health and help those who are suffering from a mental illness. MHA was founded in the twentieth century by Clifford Beers, who was confined to a psychiatric hospital at several points in his life. During these times, he experienced mistreatment at the hands of the staff and after being released, sought to improve conditions for those who were in psychiatric hospitals.?
David Buckley has been the director of Adult Services at the Mental Health Association of Tompkins County since the late 1990s. During his time at the helm, he’s found that the organization’s programs are truly about reaching out to members of the community to help ensure the health of others. Among a number of different approaches, this is done through the Mental Health First Aid program the organization offers. The program is an eight hour class held over two days, which trains people in the basics of mental healthcare. As Buckley said, it’s not meant to be an instant expertise training, but to at least build a foundation in a variety of areas that can be built upon at a later point.?
“We try to provide information on depression, anxiety, other disorders that deal with psychosis as well as substance use and the idea is to basically increase everyone’s mental health literacy as much as can be done, and make people less uncomfortable with dealing with someone who is having an anxiety disorder or depression or what have you,” Buckley said. “It’s a very structured course, we typically have seven or eight different training sessions throughout the year in this community and we take it on the road. We take it out of town and up to the campuses.”
Along with the Mental Health First Aid program, the MHATC operates the Jenkins Center at Clinton and Geneva Streets where people with varying mental health histories can receive services. It’s open five days a week and, according to Buckley, different groups utilize the space as a meeting space and the center provides people with a social outlet for those who may not feel comfortable in other environments. Buckley had some advice for having good mental health in the New Year, despite it being a different experience for everyone, these tips can easily be applied to anyone.?
“First of all, everyone is better off taking care of themselves to make sure they are eating properly and getting enough sleep, that’s an absolute basic to do,” Buckley said. “Beyond that, one thing that I have found and what a lot of people are seeing now is a combination of exercise, whether it’s working around the house or going for a walk. It doesn’t have to be strenuous but some kind of moderate physical activity is helpful as well as taking time. My recommendation is to take a break from the electronic world and spend some time relaxing. That can be done by going for a quiet walk in the woods or a walk with your dog or a friend or whatever; just set aside some time to be quiet and relax.”
Buckley said there’s no shortage of relaxing activities someone can do: yoga, tai-chi, or listening to music. It can be different for everybody. Whatever it is, Buckley reiterated that it’s important to set specific time aside to care for oneself mentally, particularly in a time when it’s increasingly likely that people feel they just don’t have the time to pause for those activities.?
One of the other services they provide is a summer camp, called Kids First, for kids who are dealing with a mental illness. It allows the kids to get a summer camp experience while making sure that they are in a comfortable environment. Since the news of mandated mental health education in public schools was announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the MHATC has been working with local public schools to teach educators about the different facets of mental health.?
MHATC has also been partnering with other agencies within the community to ensure that people get the help they need. Buckley said that the MHATC is also looking to make sure that any gaps in the mental health system are addressed to ensure the health of all those with a mental illness.