WXXI AM News

Mental Illness

At first glance they appear to be intimate, one-of-a-kind watercolor portraits. But when you read between the lines you see life stories of bravery, pain, hope, and resilience. Charmaine Wheatley is an artist-in-residence at the University of Rochester. For the past year she has focused a portion of her work on reducing stigma of those who live with mental illness. Her process was the subject of a short documentary titled: “Portraits of Life” by Epic 10 Films in association with the UR School of Medicine & Dentistry.

On this edition of Need to Know we learn how a project capturing candid conversations with watercolor help to reduce stigma and empower those living with mental illness.

The British writer Johann Hari has just released a new book about how to treat depression. It's a book that makes a case for a much different approach -- but that's not what is sparking the most controversy. In the book, Hari claims that antidepressants fail the vast majority of the time. He makes statistical claims that have already been essentially debunked. The medical community is concerned that Hari's claims could convince people to stop taking medication, so they're pushing back.

We discuss antidepressants, and a multi-pronged approach to treating depression. Our guests:

  • Eric Caine, M.D., former chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester
  • Christopher R. Noel, PharmD, BCPP, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at St. John Fisher College’s Wegmans School of Pharmacy
  • Eleni Gogos, mental health activist and psychology student at RIT
  • Jordan Dube, mental health activist

This hour, we have a conversation about mental health in the African American community, with a focus on the psychic cost of racism. According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. Reasons for that disparity include racism, socioeconomic factors, and higher levels of homelessness and exposure to violence. 

The strategy of coping with prolonged psychosocial stress caused by discrimination has a name. It's called "John Henryism." We discuss that this hour, along with a new book highlighting the people who worked to make psychiatry more available to Harlem's black community in the early Civil Rights era. Our guests:

We talk about the stigma of mental illness, and assumptions the American public has about mental health issues. This conversation comes just weeks after the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. 

Mike Veny is a mental health advocate, drum circle facilitator, and motivational speaker. He tried to take his own life at age 10, and has struggled with depression, anxiety, and OCD since he was young. Now, he uses drumming to calm himself, connect with people, and break down the stigma associated with mental health challenges.

Veny is in Rochester as a guest of NAMI Rochester, but first, he's our guest on Connections. In studio:

  • Mike Veny, mental health advocate, motivational speaker, and drum circle facilitator
  • Kristina Mossgraber, events coordinator and walk manager for NAMI Rochester
  • Joy Kaminski, music therapist at Rochester Psychiatric Center

2016 marked the first time a U.S. surgeon general released a report addressing substance use disorders and health problems related to those disorders. According to the report, one in seven Americans will develop a substance abuse disorder at some point in their lives, but only one in ten will receive treatment. While a number of issues factor into the decision not to seek help – inaccessibility of treatment centers, personal beliefs about treatment, and more – the stigma attached to substance abuse continues to be a primary concern. In fact, the report called for a cultural change in understanding addiction: “addiction is a brain disease, not a character flaw.”

East House is highlighting the efforts of people affected by mental illness and substance use disorders to live healthy lives. It’s the theme of East House’s annual Hope and Recovery Luncheon, and award-winning actress Andie MacDowell is the keynote speaker. She’ll discuss her mother’s struggle with alcoholism and how it impacted her childhood.

This hour, we hear from MacDowell and then talk about recovery options in our area with our in-studio guests:

  • Chuck Montante, senior clinician at Westfall Associates, and board vice chair for East House
  • Elizabeth Kingsley Curran, director of admissions for East House
  • James Gage, community member living in recover from addiction

The tragic and bizarre story of Holly Colino's descent into mental illness has sparked a lot of media attention, but the murder she allegedly committed was not at all typical of someone struggling with such problems. And here is the concern of the local mental health community: Can we dig into Colino's past to understand what led her back to Rochester without mistaking her story as something common or typical? People with mental illness already deal with stigma and misunderstanding. 

We explore all of that with our guests:

If you told your boss you needed a couple days off for health reasons, what would he or she say? If you mentioned you needed time off for mental health reasons, would your boss understand?

A woman in Michigan wrote an out-of-office message indicating that she'd be off for a few days to care for her mental health. The CEO of the company wrote back, thanking her for reminding everyone of the importance of using sick days for mental health. His response went viral. 

Our guests join us to talk about the value of taking mental health days, and how both employees and employers can help combat the stigma. In studio:

  • Kyle Baker, lead configuration analyst at a local engineering facility
  • Kristina Mossgraber, events coordinator and walk manager for NAMI Rochester
  • Britton Lui, vice president of people and development at Dixon Scwabl
  • Krista Berry, HR manager at Common Ground Health

Nearly 44 million American adults experience mental illness in a given year, yet only about 60 percent receive treatment. The stigma surrounding mental illness keeps many adults — and youth — from asking for help.

Compeer Rochester is working to change that; the organization says there’s strong evidence behind the therapeutic value of friendship. Compeer offers mentoring programs where adults and youth struggling with mental illness are matched with community members.

We talk to members of the program who say it has changed their lives. Our guests:

  • Dana Frame, executive director of Compeer Rochester 
  • Jim Sedita and Steve Smock, adult match at Compeer Rochester 
  • Joshua, youth match at Compeer Rochester 
  • Dr. Stacy B. Killings, Psy.D., crisis therapist at Strong Memorial Hospital and school psychologist at Gates Chili High School

How can we combat the stigma of mental illness? Negative perceptions of mental health issues can have deleterious effects for patients: the stigma often inhibits them from seeking treatment and can create barriers in the workplace, social circles, and the legal system.

Healthcare is evolving to better serve the mental health population and reduce this stigma. We discuss new practices, a film series aimed at improving perceptions of mental health, and an art project that’s putting a “human face” on the issue. In studio:

  • Dr. Larry Guttmacher, M.D., clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and co-director of the Reel Mind film series
  • Patrick Bailey, peer advocate in the forensic unit of the Rochester Psychiatric Center
  • Charmaine Wheatley, artist-in-residence at the University of Rochester Medical Center

Parents have raised concerns about gaps in the quality and focus of care related to children's social and emotional health in our region. As a result, the Greater Rochester Health Foundation convened a commission on children's behavioral health. What did they find? We discuss the Crisis in Care report with our guests:

  • Dr. Martin Lustick, M.D., senior vice president and corporate medical director for Excellus BCBS, and co-chair of the Greater Rochester Initiative for Children’s Social and Emotional Health Implementation Task Force
  • Shaun Nelms, Ed.D., associate professor at the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester, superintendent of East High School, and co-chair of the Greater Rochester Initiative for Children’s Social and Emotional Health Implementation Task Force
  • Anita Black, program officer for the Greater Rochester Health Foundation

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