Stamping Out Stigma with Senior Services

By Nicole Fogarty

Daniel Chen, M.D., addresses the crowd at Henry Street Settlement Senior Services’ inaugural mental health conference. 

Henry Street Settlement Senior Services ushered in Mental Health Awareness Month at its inaugural mental health conference, Stamping Out Stigma: Exploring Mental Health in Multicultural Senior Populations, held at the Settlement’s Community Consultation Center May 3, 2018.

The event brought together community members, seniors and service providers to hear from expert panelists and guest speakers on ways to eliminate barriers for seniors who need mental health treatment.

Janet Fischer, Chief Administrator for Senior Services at the Settlement, opened up the conference with a video (produced by Henry Street Meals on Wheels staffer Jay Rathbun) and a rousing call to action.. “The goal of this conference is to start the conversation on mental health so you can bring that conversation back to your communities and promote empowerment over shame,” she said.

Henry Street Executive Director David Garza added that he had been screened for depression at Henry Street and encouraged everyone to do so, to help eliminate the stigma typically attached to the disease. “Henry Street comes from an extraordinary history of innovation and commitment to the work, which can be traced back to our founder Lillian Wald. Her motto could have been: ‘See something, do something.’ She saw something wrong, and she spoke up and did something about it.”

Keynote speakers included Gary Belkin, M.D., the Executive Deputy Commissioner for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and Dr. Donna Corrado, the commissioner for the NYC Department for the Aging. Dr. Belkin, who has a family connection to the Settlement (his mother-in-law, Dale Jones Burch, is a president emerita of Henry Street’s Board of Directors), emphasized community in his remarks, encouraging the social service providers in the audience to identify the signs of mental illness in those they serve.

Dr. Corrado echoed Dr. Belkin’s sentiments, saying, “We are all the eyes and ears when it comes to mental health. If you see something, reach out. Mental illness is treatable.”

Guest Speakers Melinda Lantz, M.D. (Vice Chair & Chief of Geriatric Psychiatry at Mount Sinai Beth Israel) and Daniel Chen, M.D. (Vice Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Addiction Services at Flushing Hospital Medical Center) spoke about the barriers presented by institutional and cultural stigmas, and how to work around them in creative and safe ways.

Additionally, a panel on best practices featuring Dr. Jackie Berman (Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Research at NYC Department for the Aging), Agnes Leong, MSW (Social Worker at Henry Street’s Naturally Occurring Retirement Community), Dr. Jo Anne Sirey (Professor at Weill Cornell Medical College), and Dr. Wern How Yam (Clinical Care Coordinator of Integrated and Ambulatory Care at Flushing Hospital Medical Center) shared tips and tricks that been proven to help engage patients and community members who may resist receiving mental health care.

The conference was generously sponsored by Lendlease. View more photos here »

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