Mental Illness – Breaking the Stigma

Far too often, there is a lack of sympathy or understanding the impact mental illness can have on an individual, their family and the community as a whole.

I know first-hand what impact mental illness can have on a family. My mother suffered from mental illness. From when I was about 6 years old my mother fought depression and emotional issues that took a toll on her daily life. She was diagnosed with having several nervous breakdowns during her life, spending weeks at a time in the hospital. It was always a difficult time for my Dad, brother and me seeing her this way.

My family would tell me stories of the difficult times she and her siblings had growing up. Did that play a role in her mental illness? Quite possibly.

As you can imagine my mother’s mental illness was hard on our family at times, especially for my Dad. Although I am sure it took a toll on him, he always remained her biggest champion, forever by her side. Reflecting on that now, I see that quality he had is true to his character and it helped keep our family strong.

The experience with mental illness so close to me had an impact on my job as a police officer. We handled many jobs involving EDPs (Emotionally Disturbed Persons). I guess that is why those jobs seemed to tug at my heart, especially when it was a woman around my mother’s age.

My intention in sharing this is not for sympathy, but simply to raise awareness to the fact that mental illness comes in all forms and it can impact any family. The world needs a little more EMPATHY!


Resources for Children

Staten Island Mental Health Society Early Childhood Services

The SIMHS’s four Head Start/Early Learn Centers serve more than 300 children (at any one time) between the ages of 3 and 5 each year. Pre-K is offered at each Head Start center.

To be eligible for Head Start, a family’s income must meet federal guidelines. There are no fees or tuition, and free transportation is provided.

“The nationally acclaimed, award-winning curriculum focuses on school readiness, and gives each child learning and playing experiences that prepare him or her for school, academically, emotionally, and socially. Bi-lingual teachers assist children for whom English is a second language. Children are also provided with a wide range of health and social services.”

Child Mind Institute

Offers specialized behavioral treatments that were designed and found to be effective specifically for children. Our psychiatrists are experts in how children and adolescents respond to medication and bring a collaborative approach to helping parents determine when and how medication should be part of a child’s treatment. For children with severe symptoms or families who are traveling long distances, we also offer intensive interventions to help kids experience big change in a short period of time.


Resources for Adults

Staten island University Hospital – Northwell Health

Department of Psychiatry of Staten Island University Hospital, a fully comprehensive service addressing the needs of patients requiring psychiatric care.

Staffed by an accredited team of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, activity therapists, working with primary care physicians and allied health professionals, the Department offers sophisticated multi-disciplinary care wherever and whenever it is needed.

Richmond University Medical Center

The Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation Program (CPEP) is a multifaceted treatment program offering a full range of psychiatric emergency services including crisis intervention in an emergency room setting, comprehensive evaluation by psychiatrist, nurse and social worker, referral and linkage to the appropriate community clinics in 5 days after the CPEP visit. The services also include extended observation unit (up to 72 hours), alcohol and substance abuse counseling, mobile outreach team, and a 24 hours crisis hotline.

By Michael Reilly, Staten Island Community Education Council President and current candidate for South Shore State Assembly.

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