Meet MARCo – a mental health assisting robot companion
MARCo, a mental health assisting robot companion, was created by Jacob Boyle after his struggles finding a therapist when he was younger.
Anne-Marie Caruso, NorthJersey.com
Getting help for mental health concerns should be as acceptable as being treated for high blood pressure or any another physical condition, said Brittany Pizer, a caseworker with Cornerstone Community Services in Somerset.
“The biggest thing we see is the stigma with going for therapy,” she said. “We go regularly for physical check-ups, but people don’t think about mental health in the same way. It’s the elephant in the room that we don’t want to talk about, (but) it can affect the whole family.”
That’s why the nonprofit mental health provider in Somerset County is sponsoring a variety of themed activities this month. May is known nationally as Mental Health Awareness Month, and May 18, specifically, is to be Somerset County Mental Health Awareness Day.
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“We want to break that stigma and say it’s okay to talk about (mental health),” she said. “Let’s do check-ins and talk about it.
“We’re saying, ‘It’s okay not to be okay,’ but it’s not okay to not ask for help.”
What is mental health?
According to the website for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “a mental illness is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling, behavior or mood.”
The alliance states that the condition develops over time, and is often based on physical, environmental, lifestyle and other factors. Mental illness can also affect a person’s daily life and how the person relates to other people.
Mental health concerns are also very common in the United States of America, according to alliance, since 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness each year and 1 in 6 youth aged from 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year.
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What Somerset events are planned?
In its efforts to promote mental health awareness in Somerset County, Cornerstone Community Services has tied green ribbons around trees in uptown Somerset. An exhibit of artwork created by local middle and high school students is also to remain on display through May 31 at Laurel Arts, which is located at 214 S. Harrison Ave. in Somerset.
On Saturday, a “Touch a Truck” event for families is to take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Georgian Place in Somerset. Buses, fire trucks, construction vehicles and other types of trucks are to be there for close-up viewing. Staff from Cornerstone Community Services are to attend and talk with residents to provide information about mental health services.
Because mental health is about learning how to deal with the daily stresses of life and our emotions, Pizer said, people of any age can benefit from these kinds of resources.
“Kids have mental health, too,” she said. “Teaching them young is important for their development and for the family unit as a whole. Kids do have anxiety, and us talking about it helps them learn how to cope with it appropriately.”
On May 18, residents and business owners in Somerset County are encouraged to show their support for Mental Health Awareness Day by wearing a green shirt or a shirt supporting mental health. Residents and businesses supporting Mental Health Awareness Day can upload photos to Facebook with the tag @CornerstoneCommunityServices.
Ordering food on May 18 from Stairs Pizza in Somerset and Fox’s Pizza locations in Berlin, Boswell and Meyersdale can support local mental health services as well. These businesses plan to donate 10% of their sales that day to support mental health awareness activities in Somerset County, Pizer said.
Cornerstone Community Services also plans to have a booth May 28 during a Laurel Arts Music on the Lawn event.
“We will have a booth set up with Cornerstone staff there, to engage with the community and talk about the services we offer,” she said.
How to ask for help with mental health
Local mental health services include a walk-in crisis service center, which is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at Cornerstone’s Somerset office, 245 W. Race St. There’s also a 24-hour Somerset County Crisis Intervention hotline that can be reached at 1-866-611-6467 for anyone needing immediate help with mental health concerns.
For non-emergency situations, Somerset County residents ages 14 and older can call Cornerstone’s Somerset office at 814-443-4891 to get more information or to schedule services.
Pizer said the Cornerstone staff hope that through these awareness events, the Somerset County community learns that there is no shame, failure or weakness in asking for help with mental health.
“We hope the community will participate in our mental health activities,” she said. “Wear green on May 18, go look at the art exhibit at Laurel Arts and participate in the other activities.
“You don’t have to do it alone. Recovery does happen and people do get better. Cornerstone has different services available to support you in your recovery and they are non-judgmental and confidential.”
On a related note, the Salvation Army Western Pennsylvania Division is offering a Mental Health First Aid training program June 2 in Jeannette. The program is intended to inform and prepare people to recognize when and how to respond to someone who may be going through a mental health crisis.
The training program is sponsored by the Jack Buncher Foundation. For more information about the training, contact Lauren Fair, divisional social services director, at [email protected] or call 412-596-5632.
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