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BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photo by Victoria Schneps
BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photo by Victoria Schneps
New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray participating in a game to help build confidence in seniors, part of a mental health initiative for the city's older population launched on Wednesday, December 7.

Thrive, well and health are three key words you might start seeing more of when it comes to the mental health of New York’s senior population, thanks to a number of new initiatives implemented by the city’s First Lady Chirlane McCray in conjunction with Deputy Mayor Richard Buery and Department for the Aging Commissioner Donna Corrado.

Unveiling a new package of mental health services, to be offered at 15 senior centers this year and at an additional 10 next year, McCray spent the day in her home borough on Wednesday, December 7, visiting Brooklyn’s Council Center for Senior Citizens (1001 Quentin Road), talking about ThriveNYC’s new Geriatric Mental Health Initiative and sitting down for an exclusive interview with our Co-Publisher Victoria Schneps.

“Seniors are so often overlooked, especially in this country,” McCray told Schneps. “They’re not given the respect and honor and dignity that they deserve, and because of that, other things are being overlooked — [namely] health and wellness in every sense of the word.

“For too long, seniors have suffered from mental illnesses with shame and few options to help them get well,” McCray explained, noting that, for her, the issue is a personal one, being that her parents suffered from untreated mental health problems. “But we’re changing that. People get stronger and stigma weakens with every open and honest conversation, and we are creating more resources to make sure those conversations continue.”

According to the mayor’s office, estimates suggest that, nationally, 20 to 22 percent of older adults meet the criteria for a mental disorder. Within New York State specifically, the number is expected to increase by 56 percent, from 495,000 persons in 2000 to 772,000 by 2030, as the number of older adults in the general population increases.

By stationing clinicians on site at local senior centers, ThriveNYC’s Geriatric Mental Health Initiative will allow for more accessible treatment. These mental health clinicians will also actively engage seniors in fun activities that help raise awareness about mental well-being and help to de-stigmatize mental health treatment.

“The further away older adults need to go to obtain mental health services, the less likely they are to follow through and use services,” Corrado noted. “Research has shown that integrating mental health services into non-traditional settings improves services access, receipt of services and positive outcomes. Our Geriatric Mental Health Initiative follows this model by embedding mental health professionals in our centers.”

Along with the on-site clinicians, stimulating activities and education on mental health, the Department for the Aging, through ThriveNYC, will also launch friendly visiting to homebound seniors to help prevent social isolation, which increases the risk of chronic health conditions, depression, anxiety and other serious health issues, according to the mayor’s office.

“The Department for the Aging’s Geriatric Mental Health and friendly visiting initiatives are directed toward the unique needs of NYC seniors – a segment of our population that is most vulnerable to the impacts of untreated and undertreated mental health challenges,” said Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives Richard Buery. “New Yorkers are living longer, and they are choosing to stay in the city. Our job is to make sure they can thrive as they do so.”

Another important takeaway from the day’s launch of the program, is the development of NYC WELL, a new 24/7 talk, text and chat hotline for anyone coping with stress, depression, anxiety or drug and alcohol misuse.

The free and confidential hotline can be reached by texting “WELL” to 65173, calling the hotline at 1-888-NYC-WELL or chatting online at www.nycwell.cityofnewyork.us/en/.

Check out our full exclusive with McCray below:

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