The Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene, on behalf of New York State, was recently awarded a Healthy Transitions grant by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) entitled “Promoting Hope and Opportunity for Youth with Early Psychosis.” This clinical grant will enable New York State to expand its culturally competent, recovery-oriented services for young people with early psychosis to two underserved communities in Queens, NYC and northern Westchester. Partner agencies in these two communities will each start a new OnTrackNY team.
One of these teams will be based at the Child Center of New York in Flushing, Queens and the other will be in Peekskill, NY in Northern Westchester at Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS).
Teams will conduct significant outreach and education within the local communities to increase knowledge about early psychosis, help community members and providers know how to identify early signs of psychosis, and facilitate rapid referral into specialized care in order to reduce the duration of untreated psychosis. New York State was awarded a previous Healthy Transitions grant, which is cur- rently in its 5th and final year. The previous grant supported the establishment of OnTrackNY teams in Manhattan (at The Jewish Board) and in Syracuse (at Hutchings Psychiatric Center), as well as re- sources to support the delivery of culturally competent care and the creation of recovery videos and a blog to give voice to OnTrackNY participants and graduates about their experiences.
I boarded the plane nervous. It was my first long-term trip
alone since my diagnosis. Although I had done several week or weekend trips on my own, I knew this trip would bring similar feelings to before I first heard the voices. There are so many parallels and similarities that it would be almost clear that I would experience a similar breakdown. So, not only did this trip have a warning label from the jump, but it would also bring memories and sentiments that would make me uncomfortable.
Today I celebrate one week and some change in Bali. I’m currently living amidst rice fields, and nature, and I’m writing this sitting poolside. Learning about another culture can be difficult and uncomfortable. Psychotic symptoms, could make the whole experience less than pleasant.
Fortunately, ideas of meditation and reflection learned both in my classes and during my therapy sessions at OnTrackNY have laid down the foundation for a a successful week.
Not too long ago I got an email from myself, done through an application for sending oneself emails and messages years after you’d written them. In the email it read “I hope you’ve booked your flight to Bali, or have gone already.” And while I boarded the plane, I realized how silly this constant nervousness is. The feeling that I’ll relapse, the constant fear that something will go wrong, and deter me from all the progress I’ve accomplished. Reality is that I’ve dreamt hard and long to get back to this place I once was. This subtle confidence and fearless intuition. The truth of my condition is that It’ll be with me, and follow me across the world. Under this big, vast sky, the voices in my head will always exist. And if it’s not the voice itself, its echo, and the ideas that they have implanted in my mind. But will I let this rule the way I behave myself? I sure hope not.
My diagnosis will not dictate how I will live my life. No matter how deprecating these ideas are, I am separate from what I think, and in my lowest moments, believe. I am stronger and more powerful than ephemeral things that I cannot control. And though these thoughts will follow me across seas and oceans, I will remain true to my north, and my aspirations.
In the next six months, I’ll graduate, hopefully start a new job, and have many more trips under my belt. Another rotation around the sun, and I’ll know what I will be doing for graduate school, and I’ll be closer to my dream of having a stable job and several degrees on my wall. Though things don’t al- ways go as planned, I know that the future has some good surprises in store for me. Not the voices in my head, or my diagnosis will ever stop me from appreciating the things in store for me, nor stop me from appreciating the small victories that should dominate everyone’s lives. So to conclude, I hope reading this gave you some sense of what it’s like to dream and hope for wellness and good things while in a really dark place. Life has it’s moments , but don’t just watch it pass you by, grab it’s hand and let it guide you.
July is here! Summer is in full swing, and we have some exciting updates and stories in this month’s newsletter. This letter features several contributions from OnTrackNY participants and graduates, as well news about new OnTrackNY funding and teams.
Click on the title of this post for a downloadable version of the newsletter
Members of the OnTrackNY team at Northern Rivers in Albany, NY talk about their approach and what their roles entail. They share their perspectives on psychosis, treatment and recovery.
We are glad to share that the OnTrackNY Family Advisory Council is gaining momentum. The Family Advisory Council offers an opportunity for family members of OnTrackNY participants to give feedback on program services and materials, and share ideas on how to better involve families in OnTrackNY programs. The Council recently identified a need for help with navigating the wealth of online resources on recovery. In response, Council members are developing an online-resource guide tailored to family members. We look forward to continued involvement from family members who are offering thoughtful feedback and ideas for the future.
The Family Advisory Council is open to family members of current and former OnTrackNY participants. If you are a family member who interested in joining, or would like more information about the Family Advisory Council, please contact Sarah Piscitelli at: Sarah.Piscitelli@nyspi.columbia.edu or by phone at 646-774-8432.