Get a Check-Up from the Neck Up

Our mental and emotional health is just as important as our physical health. Too often, we neglect to care for our mental well-being, and if left untreated, can cause serious health consequences. 

Common mental health conditions, such as depression, can happen to anyone at any time. Many people have struggled with depression for years, and for others, challenging times such as the ones we are all experiencing now can bring about symptoms of depression. Know that you are not alone, and help is available. If you or someone you care for feels depressed or needs support, the City of Philadelphia has numerous resources available, including and You can begin your mental health check-up with a quick and anonymous mental health screening and continue reading to learn more about depression. 

How do I know I might have depression?

If you struggle with depression, you can have trouble sleeping (sleeping too much or not enough), trouble concentrating, and very low energy. You can lose interest in activities you once enjoyed, lose confidence in yourself, and feel worthless. Some people have recurring thoughts of death or suicide and can often feel trapped or desperately alone.

Depression can be a very painful and frightening experience. For many, depression can show itself in angry outbursts, frequent crying, irritability, or problems at home, work, or school. Depression can feel like you are all alone, and you can’t imagine that anyone else feels as much pain as you do. Well, that’s not true. Depression affects 40 million families each year, and other people feel and have felt similar to you.

People are reluctant to seek help for many reasons, including embarrassment, shame, fear, and social stigma. For some people, hiding their depression seems like the only solution. For others, finding negative ways to cope (like excessive drinking, overeating, or withdrawal from others) is the only way to get through the day. Many people suffer in silence, waiting a long time to find ways to feel better and get the help they deserve.

Although it might be hard to imagine, if you or someone you care about struggles with depression, people can and do get better. Help, support, and treatment can make you feel better, and it all starts with a first step. We encourage you to check in on your mental and emotional health today, beginning with a quick and anonymous check-up. This beginning step can be the start to a healthier, happier you.

Click to learn more about depression, treatment options, and support.

If you feel like you need to talk to someone immediately or soon, click here for helpful numbers and support. Remember, you are not alone.

Lived Experience

Hunter Robbins
Suicide Prevention Coordinator
Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS)

September is National Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month. This is a time to highlight the work being done to prevent suicide, spread awareness about helpful initiatives, and share resources within our communities. It is also a time to remember the importance of those with lived experience.  

Lived experience as it pertains to suicide usually means one of two things: either you have lost someone to suicide (a survivor of suicide), or you have attempted suicide yourself and survived. Unfortunately, when we talk about suicide, those with lived experience are often left out of the conversation. Being a survivor of any traumatic experience is not easy. In 2018, there were 48,433 Americans who died by suicide, and a staggering 1.4 million who attempted suicide. To add to that, studies show that for every death by suicide, there are up to 135 people who can be affected by it. This means that in 2018, up to 8 million people could be considered to have lived experience.

Why is it important to highlight lived experience? Studies show that after an individual dies by suicide, there could be a significant increase of suicide risk for close friends and family. There is also evidence that shows individuals with at least one prior suicide attempt have a higher risk of attempting again than the general population.  Those with lived experience not only have to carry the weight of their loss or previous attempt, but also have higher risk of dying by suicide themselves. If you know of someone who would qualify as having lived experience, I urge you to check in with them. Please listen without judgement and provide a safe space for them to share things that they wouldn’t typically share. Providing connection can lower suicide risk.

Those with lived experience have valuable voices that should be informing how we provide suicide care. Individuals who have attempted suicide and those who have lost a loved one know the behavioral health system better than most. They know the good and the bad. Their lived experience provides invaluable insight.  Survivors should be offered places for them to inform the system and show what it means to care for someone struggling with thoughts of suicide. As behavioral health care providers and administrators, we should listen when they tell us what they need rather than force a solution that we think is best. Suicide care is a two-way street.

Talking about suicide loss or one’s own attempt is not easy, but it is necessary to change the stigmatizing culture that still exists. We must start to share our stories of recovery and connecting with those who have similar experiences. This will create safer communities. Communities where those with lived experience do not have to be fearful of how people will react to their stories, but instead be welcomed by resources and support. Suicide may be national public health crisis, but that does not have to be the case in Philadelphia. Please click here to read a lived experience story.

If you or a loved one is thinking about suicide, please do not hesitate to call the National Suicide Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or text the Crisis Text Line (741-741). If you are within Philadelphia County and require crisis assistance, please call the Philadelphia Crisis Line (215-286-4420) or go to your nearest Crisis Response Center.

Preventing and Recovering — Together

By Omoiye Kinney
Communications Director
Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS)

September brings two important — and sometimes interrelated — recognitions together. This month is both National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and National Recovery Month.

As important as each is, both recognitions have heightened relevance during the ongoing COVID pandemic, as stress and anxiety are magnified by isolation, fear for physical well-being, and fear for economic well-being — which may result in consideration of substance use for some and suicidal ideation for others.

Even before COVID, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, with 1.4 million attempted suicides in 2018 and almost 50,000 lives lost. In 2020, Philadelphia has seen a 16.7 percent increase in deaths by suicide in comparison to 2019.

Philadelphia has numerous events planned for both recognitions throughout the month. We encourage you to take part to remind people they are not ever alone in Philadelphia.

Recovery Month Events – click for more details of events listed below

  • Sept. 12: Recovery Walk, the centerpiece of Recovery Month. The 30,000-strong event will be virtual this year, taking place from 9:30 a.m. to noon.
  • Sept. 16: The Power of Peers – Keynote Speaker: Dr. Arthur Evans, Panel of Philadelphia Area Peers sharing Lessons Learned about Promoting and Supporting Recovery in a Pandemic.  6 p.m.
  • Sept. 23: A Conversation on Anti-Racism and Peer Recovery- Deputy Commissioner Roland Lamb, DBHIDS. 6 p.m.
  • Sept. 30: Recovery Month Grand Finale- “The Recovery Toolbox For All.” Closing keynote by Bill White. 6 p.m.

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

  • Sept. 10: Suicide Prevention Day. DBHIDS and partners across the city will be wearing purple and buildings including Boathouse Row, the FMC building, the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, and others will be lit up in purple to show support.
  • Sept. 16: A Suicide Loss Survivors Panel will focus on survivors of suicide, including discussion with individuals who have lost someone to suicide.
  • Sept. 17: Training session will provide a framework for supporting an individual who may be thinking about suicide and how to connect them to help.
  • Sept. 30: Black Youth and Suicide panel discussion will focus on unique issues related to suicide and Black youths. — learn more at
  • More information at on these events and others, including monthly suicide loss survivor support groups.

Combatting Social Isolation in Children During COVID-19

By Tamra Williams, Ph.D.
Deputy Chief Clinical Officer—Children’s Services
Community Behavioral Health, a division of the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services

Mother and daughter (7yrs) hugging

For children, one of the many consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a decrease in opportunities to interact with their peers in traditional and important ways. Restrictions on face-to-face interactions with peers and playmates and more time spent indoors translate, for some children, into stress and frustration that affects their emotional and behavioral health.

From a developmental perspective, we know that play and peer interaction is important for young children. It helps with social skills, moral reasoning, and cognitive development. Moreover, children staying home 24/7 can add an additional layer of stress to parents, chipping away at their emotional reserves and ability to parent effectively. How can we combat the loss of playtime and the increased stress on parents?

Routines are important. School provides a consistent routine that is vital for most children. With many schools starting virtually, it will be important to create a consistent schedule for children while learning at home. Make new traditions for the routines that typically happen while preparing for the start of a school year. For example, think about what might be needed for successful online learning experiences when planning for back-to-school shopping with your child. Physical activity is also helpful; try to schedule a time for exercise or physical movement into your child’s daily routine.

It is also important to create frequent and varied opportunities for social experiences and activities. For example:

  • Schedule face-to-face play dates. If you do so and allow your school-age child to play with a peer, make sure to follow CDC guidelines: keep the child home if sick, use social distancing guidelines, limit touching of commonly used surfaces, wash hands, and have them wear masks.
  • Have your child play sports. The CDC recommends taking precautions based on risk, with the lowest risk being sports at home, alone, or with members of the same household and highest risk being full competition between teams from different geographic areas (e.g., outside county or state). The CDC notes that “the more people a participant interacts with, the closer the physical interaction, the more sharing of equipment there is by multiple players, and the longer the interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.” Therefore, aim for individual sports or sports played with family members and avoid sports with multiple players, physical or close contact, and shared equipment.
  • Make time for virtual connections. Use technology to connect with friends, family, and peers.

You and your child can also get help from a mental health professional. If your child is struggling to understand the change in routine or cope with social isolation, there are many resources that help parents with developmentally appropriate talks and explanations about COVID-19. If you, as a parent, are overwhelmed by COVID-19-related stressors, there are also resources available to you. We encourage you to seek the help of a mental health professional if you or your child are experiencing any stress or loss that is having a significant negative impact on day-to-day functioning.

Resources for talking about COVID-19 with children:

Closing the treatment gap: Time to address inequality within mental health

Mother and daughter listening to cell phone music on headphones
Mother and daughter listening to cell phone music on headphones

By Sosunmolu Shoyinka, MD
DBHIDS Chief Medical Officer

Two months ago, the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services and the City of Philadelphia took the occasion of Mental Health Awareness Month to remind residents — especially during this difficult and unprecedented time of COVID-19: “You’re not alone. Help is out there.”

Much has changed in the national dialogue since early May. And now Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, recognized in July of each year, gives us the opportunity to look more closely at overall mental health awareness — and focus on the shortcomings of mental health treatment among minority groups.

Mental health issues are not limited by race, gender, sexual identity, or anything else. Sadly, data suggest that access to mental health care does have limitations. This is particularly the case for minority populations.

Across the United States, minority groups are less likely to have access to mental health services, less likely to use community mental health services, more likely to use emergency departments, and more likely to receive lower quality care, according to a report from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. They are also disproportionately impacted by socioeconomic determinants such as housing, food and financial insecurity, inadequate health insurance, exposure to violence, unemployment and lower access to quality education. The disproportionate impact of the COVID pandemic on these groups, due in part to these factors is a poignant testimony to this.

Systemic racism in the United States already puts hurdles before minority groups. But with a pandemic that also affects Black and Hispanic people more than whites, in addition to ongoing justified social unrest, physical isolation, and more, equitable access to mental health care is vitally important.

And Philadelphia is doing everything it can to deliver just that kind of equitable treatment. DBHIDS’ Community Behavioral Health division works directly with providers to bring mental health services to all of those in need, regardless of background. And our site offers free online screenings and evaluations for all residents so they can better understand their own needs before deciding whether to seek further care.

DBHIDS also partnered with Independence Blue Cross and other public and private entities this year to launch to make access to mental health services as easy as possible for all residents. 

DBHIDS works hard to ensure minority residents have fair and equitable access to quality mental health care. We believe in the work we’re doing and the benefit it has to individuals and to the entire population of Philadelphia.

July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Know that Philadelphia is here to help you. All you have to do is ask. Start here:

Discover the Independence Blue Cross Wellness Corner on

This July 4th, be #mindPHL with us.

This year, we won’t be at Welcome America together in person on the Parkway, but we can still share this year’s all-free, all-virtual Fourth of July experience with our mental health in mind.

Look for #mindPHL segments on NBC10’s Philly Live starting on June 26 and continuing throughout the next week leading up to the holiday. Also, visit the Independence Wellness Corner on for stories and ideas that will inspire you to boost your mood all year long.

You’ll learn about the connections between mental health and food, exercise and spending time outdoors.  You’ll learn how to lift your spirits through art and mindfulness techniques. You’ll gain insights for improving connections with friends and family.  

Let’s have a safe, healthy and #mindPHL holiday — together!

Independence Blue Cross logo

Finding Peace in the Pandemic

“In these times of intense stress, it is most difficult to find our peace and balance.”

We are experiencing unprecedented times with daily increases in the number of COVID-19 positive cases and the number of deaths. Color-coded tracking maps magnify the power of the virus’ transmission across our counties, states, and countries. In real time, we receive tweets and notifications of “hot zones” and alerts about increasing rates of transmission. In addition to the threats to our own health and the healthcare system, we are experiencing real economic loss and a hostile political climate. In these times of intense stress, it is most difficult to find our peace and balance.

“We all struggle with our need for control and predictability in times when the rules are changing daily.”

We must find our own personal balance of how much news we need to stay informed without inundating ourselves with fear and anxiety. How do we balance the mandate for social distancing with our need for human connection? Accommodate the need to protect our children with the responsibility to provide care and supplies for our aging parents? How do we balance the blessing of working remotely with the demands to teach and care for our children simultaneously? How do we process the loss of lives and panic around us with our own need to find peace within us?

“Finding inner peace often involves letting go of what we cannot control and banding together with those we love.”

As a trauma clinician and supervisor working with children and families in Philadelphia, many of our families are impacted by poverty, violence, and toxic stress. As clinicians, we believe that we help our clients better understand their trauma, but we cannot underestimate what our children and families teach us about resilience.

Families have taught me how much a sense of community builds resilience, that resilience is not only about what you are born with, but also about the community and connections that surround you. They have taught me the importance of reflecting on the positive in the midst of the storm and that finding inner peace often involves letting go of what we cannot control and banding together with those we love.

“Fear and panic overshadow the strength and goodness in our communities.”

Too often in our society, we focus on the trauma and not the resilience. Fear and panic overshadow the strength and goodness in our communities. I want to thank and acknowledge our healthcare professionals, clinicians, researchers, public health officials, local and state leaders, teachers, community advocates, faith-based communities, mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, and especially our children as they continue to shine their light and build our sense of community and resilience during this difficult time.

As we endure this pandemic and seek calm during this storm, we must take time to acknowledge and celebrate the ways we have come together as a community to fight this battle.

To find peace, we must allow the love, compassion, strength, and service that we see to shine through, to let go of what we cannot control, and to find strength in our strong sense of community.

Originally posted on Healthy Minds Philly

How to take care of your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak

These are stressful and uncertain times. The evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic is very sudden and can be confusing. This may provoke anxiety for many people.

Those with pre-existing anxiety and other mental health conditions may be particularly at risk. Individuals and teams whose work bring them in contact with infected persons may experience stress and anxiety. Other groups at risk for increased stress include the elderly, those caring for sick or vulnerable persons, and those experiencing significant changes to work, travel, or family life.

Regardless of status or work function, we can anticipate that all of us will at some point experience some increased stress.

At times like this, it is important to take steps to promote mental wellness and resilience. DBHIDS aligns with SAMHSA, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric Association to make the following recommendations:

  1. Connect with people: Reaching out to people you trust is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety, depression, loneliness, and boredom during social distancing, quarantine, and isolation. Make phone calls frequently, FaceTime, and text to stay connected.
  2. Relax: Calm your body often by doing things that work for you—take deep breaths, stretch, meditate, pray, or engage in home-based exercise including yoga. Pace yourself between stressful activities and do something fun after a hard task.
  3. Get outside in nature–if you are able: Parks are a safer option than indoor meeting spaces when looking for recreation. So while all official Philadelphia Parks & Recreation programming is suspended as of March 16, you can still take advantage of outdoor spaces—such as FDR Park, Fairmount Park, and the Wissahickon Valley Park. Just remember to practice social distancing and wash or sanitize your hands frequently.
  4. Do not ignore your health; talk to your doctor: Ask your provider if it’s possible to schedule remote appointments via Skype or FaceTime for mental health, substance use, or physical health needs.
  5. Stay informed using credible sources: This can keep us all grounded and centered with accurate and timely information. For Philadelphians, we recommend visiting the City of Philadelphia’s COVID-19 webpage. You can also text COVIDPHL to 888-777 to receive updates to your phone. The City has also set up a 24-hour helpline (1-800-722-7112) if you need to speak with a healthcare professional.
  6. Consider limiting media exposure: While it is important to stay informed, constant monitoring of news and social media can trigger anxiety and stress, so it is equally as important to create a healthy balance to minimize overexposure.

In addition to these tips, we encourage you to visit This is a free website powered by DBHIDS that provides behavioral health resources and free, quick and anonymous screening to check on your emotional well-being.

We also encourage people to take care of one another and check in with those around us who might be facing challenges during this uncertain time, so together we can stay well.

Originally posted on Healthy Minds Philly