By Christina Rajotte, Director of Development & Community Relations at Equinox, Inc. (A Grateful United Way Partner)
Mental illness can affect anyone, regardless of age, economic status, or race. Every year, more than 57 million Americans are affected by one or more psychiatric disorders—whether inherited or developed from environmental stress or substance abuse.
Mental health disorders are common and treatable. While some are mild, the range includes serious disorders such as bipolar and schizophrenia. Anxiety disorders and depression are the most common mental illnesses in the U.S. Anxiety affects more than 44 million people, and can range from generalized anxiety disorder, to phobias, to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Depression can affect anyone, at any age.
With proper treatment and support, people with mental health issues can live full and productive lives. However, instead of compassion and acceptance, people with mental health disorders frequently face discrimination and stigma, often leading to loneliness and isolation.
Equinox, located in Albany, provides vital human services and positive opportunities to more than 5,500 people every year, including youth, adults and families impacted by mental health issues.
Through its Outreach Center and Transitional Living Programs, Equinox serves youth from Albany’s highest needs neighborhoods. They frequently experience difficulties at school and conflict at home, and many struggle with the impact of traumatic experiences and untreated mental health issues. Equinox provides a range of trauma-informed crisis intervention services to meet immediate critical needs. Longer term needs are met through the development of positive and trusting relationships with staff and peers, evaluations and counseling for mental health and substance abuse, and referrals for additional services such as physical and mental health care.
The onset of mental illness commonly often occurs during the college years—with 75% of lifetime cases having begun by the age of 24. Equinox’s InSights Program helps counseling centers at area colleges and universities meet the needs of college students who report mental health distress, anxiety, and relationship issues.
Equinox provides a range of mental health services to adults and families. The Outpatient Mental Health Clinic, staffed by a team of psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, professional counselors and social workers, provides assessment and treatment planning, along with individual, group and family therapy, with the focus on identifying personal goals and strategies to achieve those goals. The Clinic has been recognized as a leader in the field of treating co-occurring disorders (i.e. mental health disorder with substance abuse disorder) by the Center for Excellence in Integrated Care.
Equinox’s PROS (Personalized Recovery-Oriented Services) offers psychiatric rehabilitation by integrating treatment, skills training, vocational rehabilitation, and support to facilitate a participant’s recovery—encouraging engagement in community activities and other opportunities that strengthen their quality of life. PROS emphasizes family participation and connections to meaningful employment, both of which are strongly linked to positive mental health.
Research shows that when a family is involved, individuals experience fewer relapses and hospitalizations, take a more active role in their own treatment, and have more success living independently. The Equinox Family Resources Program helps families cope with the challenges of mental illness through one-on-one meetings, multi-family group meetings, a 24-hour support hotline (518-312-2228) and referral services.
Equinox also offers Residential Services providing 24/7 medication supervision and a safe place for clients to live while working on rehabilitation goals, training in self-advocacy, and preparing to re-enter the community to live healthy productive lives.
It is imperative to continue the dialogue about mental health. Join in on the national discussion by sharing your experience with a mental health disorder—whether you are personally affected or impacted by a loved one’s struggle—by tagging #mentalillnessfeelslike, or tag @EquinoxInc to help spread awareness and break the stigma of mental health.