Spotlight: A Q&A with New Directions Youth and Family Services

New Directions Youth and Family Services is a non-profit built on 150-years of service and a proven record of responding to the needs of the communities we serve.

Skilled staff empower children experiencing emotional, educational, and social challenges, serving more than 2000 children and families annually. We help youth grow emotionally, behaviorally, and educationally, managing a continuum of services that includes mental health, community-based prevention, education, residential and foster care, across WNY.

Why did your organization become a member of The Anti-Stigma Coalition?

New Directions absolutely believes in the importance of erasing stigma so that all children and families can confidently access and receive the mental health support they need.

As an agency providing a range of services across in Erie and Niagara Counties, New Directions had great interest in joining an initiative to reduce stigma surrounding mental health. The work of The Erie County Anti-Stigma Coalition aligns well with New Directions’ mission to foster resilient, self-reliant families and permanence for at-risk children in the shortest time possible, by promoting safe, respectful, responsible, and goal-directed behavior.

We are grateful to be uniting with Coalition members across Erie and Niagara Counties who are all working to change public perceptions about mental health and end stigma.

How are people with mental health challenges impacted by stigma?

Stigma allows for isolation and prevents connections with the people, services, and supports that can make a difference.

Stigma prevents individuals from all cultures and backgrounds from seeking and receiving the support and interventions they need and deserve. Despite efforts to increase mental health services to the community, the fear of judgment inhibits people from recognizing symptoms, asking for support, and obtaining the necessary treatment to improve their quality of life.

Many people worry about being labeled in a negative way, being perceived as less than capable in an employment setting or being outcast in social circles. There is a fear of being harassed or bullied, overlooked for employment opportunities or advancement, and being misunderstood by friends and family.

Reluctance or fear of addressing mental health concerns leads to social isolation, increased mental health symptoms, challenges in relationships, lowered self-esteem, and difficulty setting and obtaining goals. Stigma can create a generational cycle; parents/guardians whose mental health needs are not addressed may also not recognize and address their children’s’ mental health needs, leading to more complex concerns and increased risk of potential traumatic experiences.

Stigma prevents individuals from reaching their full capabilities. We are all connected. When even one member of a group is limited because of stigma, we are all adversely impacted.

What impact is the Let’s Talk Stigma Campaign having in the community?

The Let’s talk Stigma Campaign is a platform for honest and much-needed conversations. The Campaign creates opportunities to pause, listen, reflect, inform, and empowers us to do better.

Comprehensive health and wellness are important. It would be wonderful for all individuals to seek support and be able to address their mental health needs as easily and thoroughly as their medical needs. Our society promotes healthy lifestyles, nutrition, activity, and physical health, yet fails to acknowledge that social, emotional, and mental health are key components.

Working toward incorporating whole health to include mental health components is key to reducing stigma and increasing utilization of services. Together we can end stigma and bring our communities to a place of support that honors those seeking services.

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