The DBHIDS Division of Intellectual disAbility Services will host its 23rd annual Points of Transformation Awards on Sept. 22 from 9 am to noon. This will be an in-person event to publicly acknowledge the accomplishments of those who have committed their careers to support people with an intellectual disability and/or autism. Winners are direct support/service professionals who exemplify our motto “It’s All About Community!” and are models of excellence, compassion, commitment, growth and achievement.
For more information, here please email IDS.PublicAwareness@phila.gov.
Webinar to discuss mental health in the blind and low vision community. Expert presenters will discuss psychology and therapy for the blind community, medications and genomic testing, peer and community support resources, and 988 Mental Health Hotline information.
Sessions are free and open to anyone. Sessions are hosted by the Substance Use Prevention and Harm Reduction (SUPHR) division of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. Training provides data and information on opioid use and how to recognize and respond to someone with opioid-related overdose.
The Survivors of Suicide Loss Support Groups help loss survivors cope, connect, and work toward healing. Trained facilitators know firsthand how difficult it can be to find your way after losing someone to suicide.
The Survivors of Suicide Loss Support Goups help loss survivors cope, connect, and work toward healing. Trained group facilitators are suicide loss survivors who know firsthand how difficult it can be to find your way after losing someone to suicide.
The barbershop doesn’t just make you look good — it can make you feel good, too. It’s a place where clients can find serenity, guidance, and comradery. During Minority Mental Health Month, barbers and clients from Da’ Thairapist Hairquarters in South Philadelphia discuss the impact of the Black barbershop on their mental health in a video for Independence Blue Cross’s (Independence) “How I Know My Mind” series.
“How I Know My Mind” is an extension of the Know Your Mind mental health public health campaign. The series presents personal reflections from people throughout the Philadelphia region sharing what they do to promote their mental well-being.
Independence launched Know Your Mind in 2020 to educate the community about symptoms of depression and anxiety and offer resources to support mental health.
Violence devastates the families and loved ones of its immediate victims, but also sends shockwaves through whole communities. It can affect people’s health in far-reaching ways. It literally keeps people up at night. It can also:
There Are Things We Can Do to Address Violence Together
The causes of community violence are complex, and different communities are impacted in different ways. But there are proven solutions we can all get behind.
For example, cleaning up neighborhoods has been shown to significantly reduce gun violence. Removing trash from vacant lots, and planting grass and trees, not only reduces crime; it also helps relieve depression and anxiety in the community.
If you want to talk to someone about gun safety, but don’t know what to say, here are some tips. And there are organizations that can help you say something anonymously if you’re worried that someone may perpetrate violence or self-harm at a school.
At Independence Blue Cross (Independence), we are part of the Coalition to Save Lives, which aims to address the violence crisis in Philadelphia. It identifies violence prevention programs that work and tries to replicate them here. You can learn more by watching this recent interview with the organization’s Executive Director and reading their report on evidence-based solutions.
We all dream of a world where we never have to worry about our safety, where so many lives are no longer cut short, and vigils and protests aren’t necessary anymore. And we should all be working to make that vision a reality. But as we do that, we must also take care of ourselves.
There are lots of ways to relax besides exercising. Many people get great results from doing yoga and meditating. But relaxing can be as simple as pausing to breathe deeply, listening to music, cooking a meal, taking a walk, or creating something. Whatever works for you, that’s what you should do. For your own well-being.
5. Get Help
There are many resources to help individuals, families, and communities address violence and trauma impacting them, including:
UpTheBlock, a searchable directory of services for Philadelphians
If you’re having panic attacks or chest pains, regularly feel irritable, or are getting worried about your mental or physical health, it’s time to get help. Talk to your doctor and let them help you find the best solutions. Or reach out directly to a therapist.
Independence members can get connected with behavioral health specialists by searching our Provider Finder. They can also call the Mental Health number on the back of their member ID card to speak to someone who can help connect them to care.
Everybody Deserves to Be Safe From Violence
We shouldn’t just accept that community violence will always be part of our lives. As Alice Walker — the first Black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in Literature for her novel The Color Purple — said, “the most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
While reducing violence may seem impossible, we can have a safer world if we build it together. And that starts with taking care of ourselves and each other.
On Monday evenings, as the sun sets on the Schuylkill River in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, you can see women in pink shirts and baseball caps rowing down the river in groups of two, four, or eight. Some are moving swiftly, while others are getting their bearings, guided by a coach in a skiff alongside them. All are part of WeCanRow, a national program founded in Boston in 2002 for breast cancer survivors.
WeCanRow gives these women the opportunity to become active participants in their cancer recovery. Together, they build strength, rediscover the joy of movement, and become part of a mutually empowering team. Rowing helps these survivors improve their physical and mental well-being.
WeCanRow – Philly
In 2018, WeCanRow – Philly found a home at the Whitemarsh Boat Club in Conshohocken. The group began with a handful of participants, facilitated by Dale Parenti, a Philadelphia-based graphic designer, rower, and breast cancer survivor. Today, the group has more than 30 active members of various ages and fitness levels who find the group physically and mentally energizing. Those who have no previous rowing experience find it easy to immerse themselves in the thrill of the sport. Learning something new seems to spark their energy and distract them from their diagnosis.
“When I was first being treated for breast cancer, I joined Hope Afloat, a dragon boat team for breast cancer survivors,” Parenti says. “I hadn’t exercised regularly in probably 20 years by that point. I was too busy raising children and building my career, and I didn’t prioritize myself or my body. Suddenly, exercising three times a week made a dramatic difference in my mental health. My mood suddenly lifted, and I felt like myself again. The team environment made it easy to commit to the regular exercise in a way that going to a gym on my own would not have.”
“A lot of breast cancer survivors often feel betrayed by our bodies when we are diagnosed with cancer, especially when we’ve taken good care of ourselves,” says Sue Ryan, PsyD, a psychologist in Collegeville and WeCanRow member. “When we row, we have to make friends with our body again. It gives us an appreciation of how our body works and how we can be in rhythm with others. When we have a good row together, it’s an exciting feeling. We also build friendships on the river and see others who may or may not have gotten through this journey with different issues. It gives you context.”
Well-being Beyond the Boat
Rowing as a team creates strong personal connections. According to Parenti, “the women of WeCanRow support each other on and off the water. Bonds form around the experience of being teammates and fellow cancer survivors. They learn to work as a team and realize they’re not facing any challenges alone.”
A cancer diagnosis can affect your peace of mind, so rowing can be a great distraction. “Rowing requires such focus and concentration that it’s not possible for the mind to wander,” Parenti notes. “Worries, stress, and fears are all left at the dock. Once you’re on the water, those problems are forgotten.” Of course, spending time in nature is good for your mental health. Being on the river, watching ducks swim by and birds land on the rocks, with the sound of oars slicing through the water can be therapeutic.
For many women, dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis is socially isolating. It changes how you see yourself in relation to others. Rowing helps breast cancer survivors improve their physical and mental well-being. With WeCanRow, the women learn how to support each other as rowers first, then as survivors. “Rowing gives us an identity other than being a patient,” Ryan says. “Our chant at the end — ‘We Can Row!’ — this is something we can do that is an identity apart from having had cancer.”
For more information about mental health, self-care strategies, and where to find help, visit ibx.com/knowyourmind.
In many neighborhoods, the barbershop doubles as a place of healing, where people ― particularly men of color ― can find support, perspective, and maybe a boost for their mental health.
“Barbershops have always been safe places to meet, vent, share personal experiences, and get a respite from the issues in their lives,” said Gabriel Bryant, coordinator of the Engaging Males of Color Initiative, managed through the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Disability Services. “You have a captive audience in one space, and they help you figure out solutions to your problems.”
A Place of Wisdom and Caring
Bryant tells the story of a man whose teenage son was having issues with another teen. The father was worried the conflict would lead to violence, and he decided to take his son to the barbershop. The men in the chairs talked for an hour, encouraging the boy to find other ways to resolve the issue. The father trusted the men at the shop to provide guidance, and it worked.
Building connections at the barbershop is important. In many communities, the barbershop is also a place where values and life lessons are shared across generations.
“It’s a place where men can trust their barbers with things near and dear to them and trust them to hold it close and not share it on the street,” said Will “Latif” Little, a barber for 18 years at the Jazz-U-Up barbershop in South Philadelphia. “It’s a hub. It’s a safe place. It’s a familiar place where [boys and men] get education on personal development.”
Little served 10 years in prison before finding his purpose. Now, as a life coach, he hosts Monday night classes at the barbershop for men and women on topics like financial literacy, careers in the trades, the importance of going to college, and conflict resolution.
To his satisfaction, Little sees that a lot of the young men he once mentored now have their own children. And those fathers are using the same tools they learned in his barbershop to help their children make better life choices.
Where Everybody Knows Your Name
Bryant recalls watching a basketball game at a crowded barbershop a few years ago. When someone shouted, “The Sixers stink!”, an older gentleman started sharing his memories of watching players like Dr. J (Julius Erving) hold court at the Spectrum. The shop fell quiet. The men listened and showed respect, as this older man owned the moment.
Many seniors go to the barbershop to avoid loneliness, Bryant says. Barbershops are important community support systems. “Men of color are socialized not to ask for help or seek care. The barbershop is a place where they know they can find support from other men. It’s a healthy move,” he said.
“Barbers have served as community counselors, comedians, and faith leaders,” Bryant added. “A trusted barber is a strong force in the community.”
For more information about mental health, self-care strategies, and where to find help, visit ibx.com/knowyourmind.