Why did your organization become a member of The Anti-Stigma Coalition?
West Side Community Services (WSCS) recognizes the profound impact of mental health stigma on our community members and the importance of dismantling these barriers to well-being. Joining The Erie County Anti-Stigma Coalition aligns with our core values of inclusion, empathy, and impact. By being a coalition member, WSCS actively participates in a collective effort to challenge and change societal attitudes towards mental health. We aim to contribute to a stigma-free environment, ensuring that individuals facing mental health challenges feel supported, understood, and encouraged to seek the help they need. As a member, WSCS is committed to being a driving force in fostering a more compassionate and accepting community for all.
How are individuals with mental health challenges impacted by stigma?
Individuals with mental health challenges often face social isolation, employment discrimination, limited educational opportunities, delayed or inadequate treatment, negative self-perception, barriers to relationships, and negative impacts on physical health. Stigma can create significant obstacles to seeking help and living a fulfilling life.
What is your organization doing to address stigma and enhance mental wellness for the people you serve as well as families and volunteers?
At WSCS, our commitment to fostering stability, security, and well-being extends to addressing the mental health challenges faced by individuals and families within our vibrant community. Our inclusive programs for youth in grades K-12 and older adults age 55+ focus on fostering a safe and supportive environment for all participants.
Our youth programs employ strategic partnerships with other local organizations to expose kids and teens to a wide variety of sports and fitness modalities, arts and culture media, and other less commonly accessible activities such as Dungeons & Dragons and virtual reality development. With this wide range of offerings, we are helping youth discover new interests that can support their mental wellness now and into their adulthood. In addition to these fun activities, we also prepare youth for life after high school by practicing “adulting” skills such as resume building, job interviewing, budgeting, and saving, cooking, and understanding and navigating health insurance. By practicing these skills with hands-on adult support now, teens will be able to tackle post-graduation challenges confidently.
Our prevention program works with kids and teens in our youth programs, as well as in local schools. Staff incorporate drug and alcohol resistance training with prosocial behavior development to encourage youth to make positive choices.
In both our youth and prevention programs, we work to increase resiliency through cooperative play with peers and relationships with supportive adults.
Our older adult program emphasizes socialization and interaction to combat the loneliness epidemic that especially affects seniors. Program leadership also utilizes partnerships to bring in additional activities such as lectures, hands-on arts projects, yoga, tai chi, dance, and more. Program staff work diligently to connect with each participant to understand their physical and emotional needs and work to address them.
In instances where we may be unable to address specific individual needs, we connect individuals with the appropriate services and partners that can offer the necessary support.
Finally, we participate in Child and Family Services’ Employee Assistance Program, which provides our staff with access to free mental health resources including counseling, referrals, and trainings.