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On May 1, County Executive George Latimer officially launched May as “Mental Health Awareness Month” in Westchester. Latimer announced the annual recognition would appear in digital form outside the Westchester County Center for the month of May. A banner will also be displayed in the entranceway of the Michaelian Office Building, in addition to a series of other initiatives spearheaded by the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health (DCMH). The message of Mental Health Awareness Month is that mental health wellness is for everyone, and there are practical tools that everyone can use to improve mental health. 

Latimer said: “This is one of the few occasions I get as County Executive to officially declare May as Mental Health Awareness Month in Westchester. The importance of this event is obviously promoting good mental health, which is more relevant today than ever as we continue to face the impacts of the pandemic as a community. There is a stigma that is often attached to mental health needs, and we want to take time this month to turn the conversation towards wellness and resilience. I am very proud of all the wonderful work that is being done by our County departments, our not-for-profits and private clinicians who offer support and services to the people of Westchester. The ways to receive help are many and varied, and we applaud those who are utilizing these opportunities to improve their mental health and wellness.”

Commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health Michael Orth said: “The mental health of all Westchester County residents is a top priority. We thank County Executive Latimer for declaring May as Mental Health Awareness Month, and promoting educational opportunities and services available here. The pandemic continues to take a toll on everyone’s mental health. Knowing the signs and symptoms and who to link to if you are concerned about yourself or a loved one is an important first step in getting help.”

Department of Social Services Commissioner Leonard Townes said: “We are honored to support County Executive Latimer, Commissioner Orth, and Executive Director Harris-Madden in recognizing Mental Health Awareness Month, recognizing that wellness is one of the foundations of healthy child, youth and family development, and that we all play an important role in coordinating services across Departments and in the community to support the well-being of the residents we serve. We also look forward to strengthening these efforts through the creation of a Children’s Cabinet to further focus our collective resources and expertise on the needs of children and families in Westchester.”

Executive Director of the Youth Bureau Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden said: “We are extremely proud of the creation of the Children’s Cabinet. This collaboration truly underscores this administration’s alignment of standards and intentions across all departments to service children, youth and families who have challenges that interfere with their quality of life. Recognizing that mental health is equally as important as physical health, and that now more than ever, we must implement appropriate interventions that adequately detect and address the social, emotional and behavioral health needs of children and youth early on. We are grateful for the existing infrastructure that will allow us to expand and improve service provision and access to the supports that will make a difference in the lives of children and youth who are experiencing mental health challenges.”

Hendrick Hudson High School Sophomore Sarah Nabi said: “It is because of a lack of education and communication that mental health issues are still so prevalent, I hope that discussions and involvement like this will help to remove the stigmas surrounding mental illness and encourage young people to reach out and seek help for themselves and those around them, as it did for me when I struggled with the aftermath of the pandemic.” 

This year, in recognition of Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from May 2 to May 6, Latimer will be announcing the County’s recent award of a New York State Office of Mental Health System of Care Expansion Grant.  This grant will allow Westchester to establish a Children’s Cabinet. The Children’ Cabinet, consisting of County Departments and key stakeholders, will be charged with strengthening collaboration between the various child-serving systems.  This will be accomplished by using a strategic framework to better share data, promote best practices, and identify gaps in meeting the needs of children and families.

Mental Health Awareness Month is a nationwide effort to address and overcome the stigma associated with mental health needs. One in five people will experience some type of mental health illness during their lifetime, but everyone faces challenges in life that can impact their mental health. 

As part of the County’s efforts to promote May as Mental Health Awareness Month, DCMH is launching a “Tweet a Day for May” campaign, sharing information about events, ideas and resources. Posts will be accessible by going to: Twitter , Facebook,  and Instagram.

Other training and awareness events for May as Mental Health Awareness Month will include Mental Health First Aid Training throughout the month, NAMI of Westchester Walk on May 14, a community training forum, “Supporting People with Mental Health and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders Involved in the Justice System on May 13, and many other events.

For additional information on resources and training programs, contact the Department of Community Mental Health at (914) 995-5220.