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Mental Health Awareness Month in Allegany County

The Evening Tribune - 5/22/2018

May 22--BELMONT -- Approximately one in five adults in the United States experiences mental illness in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The Board of Legislators proclaimed May Mental Health Awareness Month in Allegany County, hoping to raise awareness and help any struggling county residents.

Towards that end, the board heard from several local leaders in the field at its May 14 meeting, including Allegany County Community Services Director Robert Anderson, Allegany County Arc Executive Director Michael Damiano, Director of Clinical Operations Kate Lewis, and Director of Community Initiatives Kelly Dickerson.

Damiano noted that county agencies work together to address challenges related to mental health.

"One of the things I think is unique about Allegany County is the interaction, cooperation and collaboration between agencies, nonprofit organizations, public servants, school districts, all the different systems of care that we bring together and do our best to coordinate, for the benefit of the people that live here," he said.

Lewis said that two concepts come to mind when the topic of mental health awareness is broached -- stigma and recovery. While stigmas can deter someone from asking for help, mental health officials have made significant progress in the area of recovery.

"We've really made a lot of strides in the last several years with recovery," Lewis said. "Less than 50 years ago, our nation made the decision to start to move psychiatric care into community-based programs. Two words you wouldn't have heard a lot back then were hope, and you wouldn't have heard anybody talking about recovery. Today, especially at ARA (Allegany Rehabilitation Associates, based in Wellsville), we've made it our mission to really focus on recovery and the belief that people with a mental health condition, no matter how severe it is, they can recover, they can have a life of choice, they can work, they can have families and fulfilling relationships."

Dickerson told the story of "William," a pseudonym for a man who has benefited directly from recovery efforts. A care manager looked at William with fresh insight, and over a few years of patient effort, William became more and more independent.

"That's at the heart of what ARA is. We believe everybody can reach recovery," Dickerson said. "We believe that our organization, rather than creating dependents, we can help link folks, connect them and help them reach a life of choice."

The hope is that Mental Health Awareness Month will help more residents of the county overcome any stigmas and start on the road to recovery.

"This message is going to be powerful for Allegany County residents to hear that we took time today to talk about this," Lewis said. "Hopefully that will plant the seed in somebody's mind that they can get help if they need it."

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(c)2018 The Evening Tribune, Hornell, N.Y.

Visit The Evening Tribune, Hornell, N.Y. at www.eveningtribune.com

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