Addressing a Boro Park audience of nearly every mental health organization catering to the Orthodox community, New York City’s first lady on Wednesday declared that mental illness is a “a public health crisis” that can only be conquered by partnering with local groups.
Chirlane McCray, the wife of Mayor Bill de Blasio, appeared at Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services’ headquarters on 16th Ave. She was welcomed by Moshe Hellman, who together with Mel Zachter, head Ohel.
“The way that you and the mayor have been open about mental health challenges in your family,” Hellman said, “makes it clear the importance of getting help.”
Shortly after her husband took office in 2014, McCray opened up about her postpartum depression after her daughter was born. She became the driving force behind the new city agency, Thrive NYC, whose aim, in her words, is “changing the culture, to make [asking for mental health help] as easy as asking for a good dentist.”
“Shalom,” she began the meeting, which was also attended by Richard Buery, the deputy mayor overseeing Thrive NYC as well as universal prekindergarten.
“It really is a public health crisis,” she said. One in five people have mental health challenges — that means almost every family is affected.”
“The needs are so great and so wide ranging that there’s a lot to do to address the problem,” McCray said.
An Ohel resident described his troubles with mental health, which he said wasn’t helped until he was arrested 40 years ago and was released to a hospital. He has since married, has a job and a “successful” future.
McCray praised Maimonides Medical Center for setting a goal by 2020 to “screen 100 percent of all new mothers” for postpartum depression. She urged everyone to learn how to detect when a friend or relative is suffering.
“It’s really a great skill to have,” she said. “It’s like CPR, but with the mind.”
Buery said that the issues cut across racial and ethnic lines.
“Citywide,” he said, “we recognize Ohel as the premier organization on mental health. When we say it affects every New Yorker it means it affects every New Yorker. It affects the economy, it affects every part of our lives.”