By Mark Hallum
First Lady Chirlane McCray unveiled a program which will connect New Yorkers with access to confidential mental health support through phone calls, text and chat. NYC Well, as an arm of the ThriveNYC program, will connect people experiencing crisis with counselling 24 hours a day, seven days a week in over 200 languages. The program’s goal is to help those suffering from anxiety, depression, substance abuse and many other severe afflictions.
ThriveNYC is a health plan which will train 250,000 employees and shift the perception of mental illness from an issue which is misunderstood and stigmatized to an aspect of life New Yorkers can easily seek help for, according to the city website,
“If you or someone you care about struggles with mental illness or substance misuse, you shouldn’t have to struggle to get help. With NYC Well, support is as close as your phone or computer,” McCray said. “No matter where you live or how much money you make, you can reach out to NYC Well with a call, text or chat. If you are a spouse worrying that drugs or alcohol are taking over your partner’s life, a parent concerned about changes in your teenager’s behavior; so stressed that you can’t work or so sad and lonely, you struggle to leave your home, NYC Well is here for you.
Not only is NYC Well part of the Thrive NYC program, but it is an extension of the city crisis line, LifeNet, a Department of Health and Mental Hygiene call center with about 6,000 employees.
“NYC Well will greatly improve access to mental health care and provide services early on, when they are most effective. Importantly, NYC Well is poised to set an example for other U.S. cities to follow,” American Psychiatric Association President Maria Oquendo said.
Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, Mental Health Commissioner Gary Belkin and Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) held a forum in September to introduce the communities of eastern Queens to the ThriveNYC program and how local organizations could help support the nearly one in five New Yorkers experiencing psychological trouble at any given time.
“I applaud First Lady Chirlane McCray and Mayor de Blasio for increasing services for mental health. We have a historically ignored and neglected population who desperately need these services to Thrive. This is a common sense approach that will lead us to no longer rely on the criminal justice system to treat mental illness,” said Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubrey in a release from the city.
NYC Well will give New Yorkers confidential assistance through technology while Thrive NYC will allow provide training support to different ethnic groups through organizations they trust. ThriveNYC will also assign mental health professionals to oversee staff at schools across the city.
“Stigma and often just limited access to information and guidance still prevent people from seeking and receiving help with mental illness and substance misuse, even in high income countries and cities. We must take action to close those gaps, and that is what New York City is doing with ThriveNYC and NYC Well. NYC Well is the kind of resource we need so much more of: one that helps close this gap for people,” Dr. Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the World Health Organization, said.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall