By Grace Bennett
Chappaqua, February 27–When it comes to understanding mental health, Michael Lombardi, Chappaqua resident and President of the Mental Health Association (MHA)of Westchester, makes one thing clear: as a society, we’ve come a long way. But there’s still much work to be done, too.
Speaking to a group of Rotary Club of Chappaqua members, Lombardi recalled an old and unhealthy secrecy surrounding serious mental illnesses in both children and adults. He spoke of how alcoholism was rarely acknowledged too. Even in more close minded times, he noted, the MHA was ahead of the curve responding to the needs of the community. ADD including working with the schools to help kids with classroom behavioral problems decades ago.
“Do any of you remember the expression: ‘Children are meant to be seen and not heard’?” he asked those gathered for the club’s weekly Monday lunch–held this time at Quaker Tavern as renovations were underway at its usual meeting place at Crabtree’s Kittle House.
The MHA of Westchester today serves 20,000 individuals a year in nine Westchester locations with plans to expand outside of Westchester too, according to Lombardi. “We’ve tried to address the myth that serious mental illness is a life sentence; it’s not a way to label an individual.”
He said MHA staff is “past treating symptoms,” in working with their clients, and that they recognize that recovery from most mental illness “is best managed at home or in a community setting.” The goal now is to reintegrate an individual into the community following hospitalization as soon as possible.
Lombardi outlined an array of services that MHA offers its clients such as the ‘Westchester Recovery Network’ which, employing ‘peer support,’ helps clients transition from long-term hospitalization, and ‘On Track, New York,’ which helps youth experiencing psychotic episodes. “Intervening earlier leads to healthier lives even in those with serious conditions,” he said.
Lombardi also mentioned programming initiatives which have included recent forums addressing suicide, depression and substance abuse. For more information about the MHA, visit mhawestchester.org, or follow their programming news on Facebook.