Ed Day, Rockland County Executive

Contacts: Jane Lerner, Office of the County Executive (845) 638-5645
Laura Incalcaterra, Rockland County Legislature (845) 638-5184


Rockland County Joins Mental Health Awareness Month Efforts

County Executive Ed Day & Legislator Alden Wolfe
Join With NAMI/Rockland To Stand Up For Children, Youth & Families

New City (May 2, 2017) – Rockland County Executive Ed Day and Legislator Alden Wolfe joined members of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and mental health experts today to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month.
The program calls attention to the complex mental health needs of children, youth and families and the need to raise awareness, reduce stigma and promote compassion and understanding while also encouraging treatment.
"Rockland County is proud to join with our partners at NAMI to address the mental health needs of children, young people and adults and families in our community, and most importantly, to work to take the stigma away from mental illness," Day said.
Day presented a proclamation to NAMI and then raised a NAMI flag outside the Allison-Parris County Office Building in New City. The program then moved into the Legislature's Chambers.

"Many people are aware that there is a gap in the help that is needed and the services that are provided to our youth," Legislator Wolfe said. "There are many reasons for this, including the stigma that is attached to mental illness. The bottom line is that if you feel you need help, please reach out. There is no shame in asking for help, but there can be terrible consequences to suffering alone."

Legislator Wolfe was joined by Legislators Harriet Cornell and Aney Paul in presenting a proclamation to NAMI and later, in hanging a NAMI Mental Health Awareness ribbon on the Legislature's office door.

NAMI Rockland is an Affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one of the largest grassroots mental health, self-help and advocacy organizations in the country. NAMI members and volunteers consist of individuals living with mental illness, relatives, friends and advocates working together to improve the lives of people affected by mental illness.

Sandra Wolf, NAMI Rockland's Executive Director, said in just the last year, the organization has
assisted more than 3,000 individuals and families through its help line, courses, support groups and
educational programs - the tools and resources that families need to cope with serious mental illness, and to help their loved ones reach full recovery.

"This year, as we start this awareness campaign, we're really working to fight the stigma and shame that people face due to misinformation about mental illness," Wolf said. "The problems are very real and we can take actions to help our children and youth begin the recovery process."

The focus of today's program was on young people and the problems they face. The statistics tell a sobering story: According to NAMI, 20 percent of youth ages 13-18 live with a mental health condition; 50 percent of all cases of mental illness begin by age 14 and 75 percent by age 24.
The average delay between the onset of symptoms and intervention is 8-10 years; 37 percent of students with a mental health condition age 14 and older drop out of school; 70 percent of youth in state and local juvenile justice systems have a mental illness. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 24; an estimated 22 veterans die from suicide daily.

Other participants included Michael Leitzes, the county Commissioner of Mental Health; Dr. Susan Hoerter, a child psychiatrist and Medical Director of the county Department of Mental Health; Janet Monroe, Executive Director of Rockland Psychiatric Center and Rockland Children's Psychiatric Center; Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco III; and Katarina Ladaga, Junior Miss New York, who is a senior at North Rockland High School.

According to Commissioner Leitzes as many as 10,000 of the 55,000 kids in Rockland who are between the ages of 10 and 18 may be at risk for mental illness. The increased use of technology and its accompanying isolation are playing a role. He notes that there can be a gap in social skills when kids are constantly texting and no longer able to really witness the impact that words have on others.

Dr. Hoerter said that when it comes to mental illness, it is very easy to avoid the difficult truth that more than half of all mental illness presents itself by the age of 14.

"Our recognition of this and our refusal to just let this slide and not pay attention to it, which frankly sometimes is easier, is difficult," Hoerter said. "But there's also hope. We're aware and recognize that we have hope and we're very thankful to organizations like NAMI."

As Junior Miss New York, Katarina Ladaga has adopted a social issue platform that focuses on raising awareness and ending the stigma of mental illness. Hers is a very personal perspective.

"While I was growing up, they always talked about our heart health—our diet and exercise and eating the proper foods on the food pyramid, but they never spoke to us about mental health," Katarina said.

She contacted NAMI because the organization can help people of younger ages, she said.

"As someone who has dealt with anxiety and depression, I was able to reach out and get the support and help that I need," Katarina said. "And I've been doing phenomenally well."

For help or information about mental illness, including available services, call NAMI/Rockland at (845) 359-8787.