I’ve known for a long time that I was cut out to help people. I spent a while sorting out how I was going to make my dream a reality, then I woke up one day and conceived the idea for this project. I quickly realized the need for clear fundamentals upon which to build the foundation so I immediately turned to my favorite fallback of books. What I now refer to as my bible, immediately fell into my lap. The Family Guide to Mental Health Care by Lloyd I. Sederer, MD arrived in my mailbox and I immediately tore through the entire book in a week, furiously highlighting, annotating, and transcribing the wealth of information within it.
To my surprise it was no average layman’s guide authored by your average white coat. It was thorough, comprehensive, but high-level enough to efficiently guide both veterans and newcomers alike through the realm of mental health care. I was first greeted by a foreword from Glenn Close who heads up Bring Change 2 Mind, a non-profit aimed at ending the stigma of mental illness through public education. Beyond that I read through the following chapters that perfectly outlined the fundamentals I was looking for.
It starts with compassion, goes into education, breaks down what good care looks like, how to go about getting help, the various illnesses and how they show themselves, medication, rehab, insurance, recovery, and resources. Along the way its dotted with hard-hitting factoids and numbers, gems of wisdom, and incredibly substantial pieces information that no one on this journey should do without, yet is so hard-pressed to discover by their own accord. It wasn’t necessarily all new information to me, but I was blown away by the end of chapter 1.
What I didn’t expect was to learn what a pioneer Dr. Sederer is and has been in the mental health community. Bravado aside, I found Dr. Sederer’s guide peppered with his own innovations and achievements in the community, and I went from impressed to awe-struck. The term “pioneer” doesn’t really cut it, he’s been dubbed New York’s “Chief Psychiatrist”. He is currently serving as the Chief Medical Officer for the New York State Office of Mental Health, which annually serves over 700,000 people, and includes 22 hospitals, 90 clinics, 2 research institutes, and community services throughout a state of 19 million people. That’s a lot to wrap your head around.
In 2002 as New York’s director of mental hygiene services, his agency was charged with overseeing the response to the psychological consequences of the 9/11 attacks. By 2004, 1.5 million NY residents had received outreach, crisis counseling, and education through Project Liberty.
In 2004 as mental health commissioner in NYC, frustrated with the poor detection and treatment of depression he spearheaded a screening and management campaign by placing posters in subways and kiosks advocating for screenings. Depression screening and evidence-based management is now showing up in a growing number of primary-care settings across the country.
His laurels also include being an adjunct professor at Columbia, he has worked for a Harvard teaching hospital, as well as the American Psychiatric Association. He’s been given several accolades for his contributions, published 7 books, authored 500 articles in medical and non-medical journals and publications, he serves as the mental health editor for the Huffington Post, and does regular radio appearances.
I feel confident with the direction of this book as a basis for my service. I would highly recommend it for anyone who feels they could use guidance at any point in the process of utilizing mental health care services. Whether you’re the patient or a loved one who cares for a patient, this could be an invaluable resource to navigating a broken system. He says it himself in the first chapter “If the mental health care system were not so broken, if it served patients and their families as it should (and can), I might not have had to write this book”.
Peace, love, and wellness.