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Vital mental health services in Buffalo community

"It’s really essential that we are here"
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Posted at 6:42 PM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 18:42:35-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Statistics say one in five Americans will suffer from mental illness, and during the pandemic our mental health has been pushed to the limits during the pandemic.

It often leaves many families searching for help and services.

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Mental Health Advocates of Western New York provides a number of services and resources.

For more five decades, Mental Health Advocates of Western New York (MHAWNY) has been a resource for families to turn to when someone is struggling with mental illness.

“It’s wonderful to get help — to get professional help, but sometimes people don't know where to get that help or who they can reach to and so that's what we are here for,” stated Melinda Dubois, executive director, MHAWNY.

Dubois is new to the job, beginning last September in the midst of the pandemic.

And it's also a fresh start for the organization it a new building on at 1021 Broadway in the heart of Buffalo's Fillmore district.

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MHAWNY now located at 1021 Broadway in Buffalo.

Several organizations, including Jericho Road are located in the building, all providing needed services to a disadvantaged community.

“It’s key to be centrally located in heart of an area that needs help. It’s really essential that we are here,” Dubois explained. “Really connecting with a community — so that they know we are here and getting to know the community.”

MHAWNY provides an array of services including:

  • Child and Family Support Services
  • Court Appointed Help
  • Legal services
  • Mindset in the workplace
  • Youth Peer Advocates in schools.

“What would you say is the single most mental health issue that folks come to your organization for?” asked Buckley.

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Melinda Dubois, executive director, MHAWNY.

“We provide a lot of support for people that are struggling with anxiety or depression — we get a significant amount of calls for people looking for resources,” Dubois replied.

Some who work at the organization have experienced mental health difficulties themselves.

“I am someone who has struggled with mental illness,” declared Alyssa Mary Erazo, youth peer advocate.

Erazo said she suffers from anxiety, but didn't understand it until her early to mid-20's.

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Alyssa Mary Erazo, youth peer advocate discusses mental illness.

“It’s taken a while for me to understand — it's okay for people make mistakes or it's okay just take time to breathe,” Erazo explained.

Erazo says she worries about doing well on the job and taking her course work at graduate school for school psychology.

“Feeling that I need to live up to certain expectations, but also in how my performance is at work or school,” Erazo reflected.

“So you’re hard on yourself?,” questioned Buckley. “A little bit,” laughed Erazo.

The pandemic certainly taking a toll on mental health for many adults and children.

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Inside Mental Health Advocates of Western New York in Buffalo.

Dubois says current statistics indicate 40 to 50-percent are suffering from anxiety, depression and loneliness.

"The fact that not only have we lost loved ones, but we’ve also lost our traditions — the things that we normally we count on — and for some of us — we’ve actually lost the foundation — whether it’s our schools — our work places our social lives,” Dubois noted.

Dubois says with the pandemic leading to an increase in mental health issues, she believes it is an opportunity to help end the stigma that often surrounds mental illness.

“We're all struggling — we're all talking about it — so the more we talk about it — the more people are comfortable about talking about it,” responded Dubois.

If you or some you know is a mental health crisis and need immediate assistance, call one of these numbers:

  • IN BUFFALO & ERIE COUNTY, CRISIS SERVICES, 24 HOUR CRISIS HOTLINE: 716-834-3131
  • 24 HOUR NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE (ENGLISH AND SPANISH)1-800-273-8255
  • 24 HOUR ADDICTION HOTLINE BUFFALO AND ERIE COUNTY716-831-7007