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May is Mental Health Month

Dutchess County offers multiple resources

DUTCHESS COUNTY — Each May the nation recognizes an important marker — Mental Health Awareness Month — and it’s been doing so since 1949. That is because of a group called Mental Health America (MHA), once known as the National Association for Mental Health.

Typically, MHA uses the month of May to promote good mental hygiene through various media partners, buttressed with additional support from local events and film screenings. It also releases various materials to help with outreach activities designed to engage as many as people as possible with MHA, its affiliates and other organizations that continue to repeat various themes all focused on staying mentally well throughout the year.

The approach has proven successful enough, but seems to have picked up some steam in recent years with the recognition of how fragile we all are — especially in the wake of COVID-19 entering our reality.

Once society realized that what it had long taken for granted as “normal” could no longer be assumed back in 2020, when governors in states like New York shut down the majority of non-essential businesses, our “normal” changed.

How could it not? As New Yorkers, including those living in the Harlem Valley, could no longer partake in what they used to do monthly, weekly, or even daily? Whether going out to enjoy indoor dining; entertainment venues; the hospitality industry; tourist spots; religious institutions; schools; going on public transportation; going to our libraries and museums, etc., people realized they basically had to exist on their own.

Whether in terms of their work environment or their school setting or even within their family dynamic; individuals, children and adults; the young, the middle-aged, the elderly; professionals and retired alike — everyone began to truly understand how lonely it felt to be isolated from one another. The fatal coronavirus — something we had never even heard of a year prior — had suddenly come to rule over all of our lives.

Now instead of knowing your 82-year-old widowed mother in Miami could take her healthy daily constitutional around her neighborhood to stay fit and active, chat with some neighbors and remain social, for the past two years she’s been holed up in a small two-bedroom condo with no one to speak with but her cat.

Likewise, your friend’s son can no longer attend community college so he’s tucked away at home, spending his days aimlessly and unproductively, thinking dark thoughts. Rather than speaking with other youths his own age, he spends more and more time playing video games and not getting any fresh air or doing any work or activities.

Because so many companies shut down their offices during the pandemic, many co-workers no longer mingle socially after hours. Therefore another friend also gave up going out to meet up with others — ever. Now she simply interacts with people only via Zoom, and lives in an entirely virtual world. Her daily activities are all online and her real-life personal interactions are slim to none. Her depression is building.

These are the types of examples that people at MHA and other mental health organizations have reported cropping up since the pandemic, not unexpectedly. That’s why they are promoting Mental Health Awareness Month as a good time to shed light on such issues and bring them to the fore.

MHA of Dutchess County offers programs right in the region for those who need support. There are workshops and educational programs; veterans services; support groups; social activities and individualized support programs; housing and shelter services; a 24/7 crisis center; and an addiction and recovery center.

MHADC offers  a weekly Depression & Bipolar Support Group, which includes a self-help group for people diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder. Family and friends are welcome.

The group meets every Monday from 5 to 7 p.m. at 253 Mansion St. in Poughkeepsie. It is open to the community and there is no fee to attend. For details,  call  845-473-2500, ext. 1316.

MHADC’s main number in Poughkeepsie is 845-473-2500 or email info@mhadutchess.org, or go to its website at www.mhadutchess.org.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Mid-Hudson also has a number of free presentations and educational classes scheduled this spring.

A Zoom Family and Friends Seminar is set for Monday, June 6, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.; the In Our Own Voice Zoom presentation will be on Wednesday, May 25, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.; the eight-week Family-to-Family Class will begin Monday, June 13, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Zoom; the next Peer-to-Peer Class will be on Thursday, June 30, from 3 to 5 p.m. on Zoom.

For details on any NAMI offerings,  call 845-206-9892 or email contact@namimidhudson.org.

Meanwhile, the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral and Community Health (DBCH) will host the YOUR (Young, Old, Urban, Rural) Health Dutchess County Health Fair on Saturday, June 11, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the lower level of the former JCPenney store at the Poughkeepsie Galleria, 2001 South Road in Poughkeepsie.

The free, rain-or-shine event will feature exhibits and demonstrations from various county government departments and divisions, plus local exhibitors, with both indoor and outdoor activities.

DBCH staff will be there to provide information about mental health counseling, rabies, tickborne illnesses, drowning prevention and maternity health topics, in addition to other details, according to Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro’s office.

“Residents are keenly aware of the importance of their own health and that of their loved ones,” said Molinaro. “I encourage residents to stop by our health fair, learn about how to improve and maintain their well-being and appreciate the myriad resources available to them.”

For more on Mental Health Awareness Month, read this week’s editorial here.

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