​LGBTQ+ History Month Celebrates Stories of Courage

October is LGBTQ+ History Month. To celebrate, let’s turn our attention to a couple Philadelphians whose advocacy contributed greatly to the advancement of LGBTQ+ civil rights in the United States.

John E. Fryer was a psychiatrist and a faculty member of Temple University School of Medicine. He was also a homosexual. (A note on usage: Homosexual was the word Fryer and others used to self-identify. Today the term is discouraged in favor of gay and lesbian.)  At the time, a homosexual psychiatrist was thought to be an oxymoron. This was because for much of the 20th Century, “homosexuality” was classified as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual.

Of course, Fryer and others like him knew there was nothing inherently disordered about LGBTQ+ identity. Due to their personal and professional experience, they understood better than anyone that the classification of homosexuality as a mental health disorder reflected not pathology in individuals, but deep-seated prejudice in the field and in society at large.

Although people like Fryer were ideally positioned to challenge harmful professional practices about sexuality, doing so incurred great personal risk. A psychiatrist who avowed their sexual identity risked the loss of their license and professional ruin. Because of this, LGBTQ+ psychiatrists were faced with a stark choice: conceal their identity or forfeit their careers.

Barbara Gittings was a lesbian activist with a track record for protesting unjust treatment of LGBTQ+ people. She founded the New York chapter of the lesbian civil rights organization Daughters of Bilitis, advocated for visibility of and materials about LGBTQ+ people in libraries, demonstrated against ban on LGBTQ+ federal workers, and more.

In Gittings’s view, the most pernicious obstacle to the pursuit of civil rights for LGBTQ+ people was the assumption that homosexuality is a sickness. With this in mind, she enlisted Fryer’s help to challenge the status quo. Together, they organized a session at the annual American Psychiatric Association (APA) convention titled “Psychiatry: Friend or Foe to Homosexuals: A Dialogue”

Wearing a mask to hide his identity, Fryer made a bombshell declaration at the session: He was a psychiatrist, he was a homosexual, and there was nothing sick or disordered about him. This admission sent shockwaves throughout the convention. Soon after, the APA would go on to declassify homosexuality as a mental health disorder.

As we celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month this October, let’s take a moment to recognize Barbara Gittings and John E. Fryer for their courage and contributions to the advancement of LGBTQ+ civil rights in the United States.

Author: César Mantilla (he/they) is Assistant Manager of Community-Based Services Development at the City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services. They have extensive professional experience in community engagement as well as with sexual and gender minorities, undocumented individuals, and people living with HIV/AIDS. César has a BA from New College of Florida and MSW from Temple University.

National Depression Screening Day

Imagine a world where we can “call in sick” because our depression is worsening or because anxiety is peaking to a point of emotional and physical paralysis. A world where we can fearlessly acknowledge our mental health challenges and receive support rather than skepticism or judgment. In our society, we are afforded sick days to treat varying physical health conditions, but it is “invisible” pains that create hesitance.

Mental health stigma promotes a falsehood that proof is needed to justify anguish. This year more than ever is important for centering our mental health needs. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), nearly eight in 10 adults identified the coronavirus pandemic as a significant source of stress in their lives. Locally, we witness the daily weight of gun violence, poverty, systemic racism, and trauma. However, we can all contribute towards promoting mental wellness in big and small ways.

Each year, National Depression Screening Day provides an opportunity to break stigma and recognize mental wellness matters. Behavioral health partners offer multiple sites to receive free behavioral screenings along with valuable resources and the support of trained professionals. We can use Oct. 7 as an opportunity to take a behavioral health screening, reach out to loved ones, or normalize mental health challenges, whether someone else’s or, most importantly, our own.

Although this reflection highlights an annual opportunity, let’s strive to create these moments daily.

Reflections on the Recovery Walk

As we come to the close of Recovery Month, it has become ever clearer how fitting this year’s theme was: Recovery is for Everyone: Every Individual, Every Family, Every Community. As the executive director of The Council of Southeast PA and PRO-ACT, I have the privilege of hearing so many recovery stories and, this year in particular, the truth of that statement is powerful.

Knowing how important gratitude is to recovery, I would like to acknowledge and share deep appreciation for those who worked tirelessly to ensure our region has a deep and resilient recovery community. Those of us working in recovery-oriented organizations owe a debt of gratitude to those who had a vision for a different way forward and helped create a new way of understanding a community approach to recovery.

Here in Southeastern PA, those individuals include my predecessor at The Council, Beverly Haberle; former DBHIDS Commissioner Dr. Arthur Evans, who is now CEO of the American Psychological Association; and current DBHIDS Deputy Commissioner Roland Lamb, to name a few.  Roland retires at the end of this month, so I also want to extend my deep thanks to him for his support and leadership – and to the support he has extended to our organization

It is truly an exciting time to be leading an organization that provides peer-based recovery supports. Those who have sought to become certified recovery specialists — or for those in mental healthcare, certified peer specialists — have developed into, to paraphrase Tom Coderre, “a workforce of consequence.” Peers are working in critically important roles in recovery centers like ours, on staff at treatment providers, in hospital emergency departments across the region, in mobile response units, in health clinics, with police departments, and so much more. This robust demand for peers means employers have had to develop creative retention strategies and work to ensure they embrace a peer-friendly culture, provide supportive supervision, and opportunities for advancement.

Peers are meeting people where they are and educating and engaging them with an approach that embraces multiple pathways, is trauma informed, and delivers on the unconditional belief that Recovery Is For Everyone!

This month we hosted our 20th annual Recovery Walks!, held virtually in the interest of keeping our community as safe as possible. Thousands of people came together online, walked in their own community, and helped paint a vibrant, enthusiastic picture of what recovery looks like in our region. It was truly inspirational.

Tom Hill, now with the Office of National Drug Control Policy, was one of many leaders who made time to share remarks as part of the program. When describing his path and work in this field, he identified that his life in recovery has given him — and it seems to capture the spirit shared by so many others: “A life beyond my wildest dreams!”

This Recovery Month, I can’t think of a better wish for each and every member of the recovery community!

Author: Jennifer King, Executive Director, The Council of Southeast PA/PRO-ACT

Your Mental Health Back-to-School Kit

Even as we make progress against the COVID-19 pandemic, we know the fight is far from over. DBHIDS is committed to addressing trauma, achieving equity, and engaging community, and we have gathered these wellness tips and mental health resources to help Boost Your Mood in these difficult times.

Blue Cross Broad Street Run

Event Time: October 10, 2021 8:00 am

Event Location:

Starts at Broad St & Fisher Ave, North Philadelphia

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Registration is closed, but you can cheer on the racers in the largest, fastest, and most popular 10-mile race in the country, drawing more than 40,000 participants from all over the world.

Bring your mask and support runners at the starting line at Broad Street and Fisher Avenue in North Philadelphia, or at the finish on Pattison Avenue just west of Broad Street. Follow the excitement @IBXRun10.

AIDS Walk Philadelphia

Event Time: October 17, 2021 9:00 am

Event Location:

Eakins Oval in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

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AIDS Walk Philly is an annual 5K winding along the scenic Martin Luther King Drive. Founded in 1987, the event is produced by AIDS Fund, and includes a display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and information tables from local service organizations. Funds support the most vulnerable living with HIV.

AIDS Walk Philly is an annual 5K winding along the scenic Martin Luther King Drive. Founded in 1987, the event is produced by AIDS Fund, and includes a display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and information tables from local service organizations. Funds support the most vulnerable living with HIV.

The Urgency of Connection in the COVID-19 Era

“People care, they love you, and they want to support you. There’s somebody and something in this world that is better because you’re around. I know it might be hard to see, but it’s there. Explore and look for that. You’re important and you matter.” – Josh, survivor of a suicide attempt

In 2019, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of more than 47,500 people. That was before the COVID pandemic — before people got sick or lost loved ones, jobs, and access to family, friends, and social activities. According to a Mental Health America brief, 38 percent of the 725,949 people who completed the organization’s mental health screening had suicidal thoughts in 2020.

And the situation has been even worse among young people. During 2020, the proportion of mental health-related emergency department (ED) visits among adolescents aged 12‒17 increased 31 percent compared with 2019. For girls in particular, ED visits for suspected suicide attempts between February 21 and March 20, 2021 were 50.6 percent higher among girls 12‒17 than in the previous year.

A Needed Perspective

Particularly for teens, we know that the pandemic has taken a terrible toll on mental health. At a time when adolescents are forming a sense of self and how they fit into the world, they have been cut off from a social life. Negative messages on social media can have a big effect. Conflicts at home aren’t improved by other adult interactions. Teens have not had the life experience to develop the perspective of time and the awareness that circumstances can change.

Strategies to prevent suicide among young people include:

  • Strengthening economic supports for families
  • Limiting access to medications and firearms
  • Training community and school staff members to learn the signs of suicide risk
  • Increasing young people’s social connections and coping skills

Talking to a primary care provider is a good first step to connecting an individual at risk to counseling or medical care.

Ask How They are Feeling and Listen

The most immediate and important thing you can do if you suspect someone is thinking about hurting themselves is to ask them how they are feeling. Reassure them that they are not alone. Be available. Show interest, listen, and allow the person to express their feelings without judgment. Support them in thinking about other ways to deal with their feelings, such as talking with a specialist in crisis intervention.

If you are interested in connecting with others who have been affected by suicide, the Greater Philadelphia chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention serves the five-county region with information and support. A free Out of the Darkness Greater Philadelphia Walk will be held October 3, 2021, starting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Help is Available

If you or someone you know is in crisis, there is help. Please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free, and confidential emergency support for people in distress, prevention, and crisis resources for you or your loved ones. Call 1-800-273-8255 for free and confidential support.

Help is also available through the Crisis Text Line. A live, trained Crisis Counselor receives your text and responds from a secure online platform. Text TALK to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor.

Original article: https://insights.ibx.com/urgency-of-connection-in-the-covid-19-era/

The African American Male Wellness Agency 5K Walk/Run

Event Time: October 2, 2021 7:00 am

Event Location:

Malcolm X Park, 5150 Pine Street

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Join 2021 Honorary Chair and Deputy Commissioner Roland Lamb at the African American Male Wellness Agency Philadelphia 5K Walk/Run. The event kicks off at 7 am and features free health screenings, entertainment, and special activity areas for kids and seniors.

AFSP’s Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk

Event Time: October 3, 2021 7:00 am

Event Location:

Philadelphia Museum of Art – 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130

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AFSP is moving forward with plans to host its Out of the Darkness Community Walks in person beginning fall 2021. The health and safety of our participants, staff, and volunteers will be their top priorities as they work with local authorities to make decisions about event details, and they’ll continue to offer options to participate online and in your neighborhood.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to be there for one another and take steps to safeguard our mental health and prevent suicide.

Register today to stay up to date on the latest news and announcements for the Greater Philadelphia Walk.

PRO-ACT National Recovery Walks

Event Time: September 18, 2021 8:00 am

Event Location:

Penn’s Landing
101 S Christopher Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19106

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20th Anniversary  Recovery is for Everyone:
Every Individual, Every Family, Every Community

PRO-ACT is a well-respected, highly visible, and vibrant grassroots organization for people affected by Substance Use Disorders and their family members. Membership includes individuals in recovery, family members and allies throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania. PRO-ACT members “put a face on recovery.”