HONESDALE - Recognizing mental health as a key component of everyone’s overall physical health and emotional well-being, the Wayne County Commissioners marked Mental Health Awareness month with a proclamation.

Director of Behavioral Programs Michelle Valinski was joined by members of the Case Management and Psychological Rehabilitation staff and representatives of the county’s System of Care, a philosophy of engaging youth and their families in helping improve the delivery of child services at every level.

Valinski noted the agency has a series of events planned to promote understanding and tolerance in the systems and the community, including a one-day training on Thursday, May 11 designed to make organizations more welcoming and affirming to the LGBTQI community.

On Tuesday, May 16, a QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper training program, which focuses on giving people the skills to identify and intervene during a mental health crisis, will be held at the Cafeteria in the Park Street Complex in Honesdale from 2 to 3:30 and again from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Valinksi said the program will teach people how to ask if someone is contemplating suicide and then how to respond to the answer they get.

The teen experience comes into focus when author Karen Fortunati spends the day on May 24 talking about her book “Weight of Zero,” which chronicles a teenager’s struggle with bi-polar disorder, hope and recovery.

Valinski said Fortunati will be featured at a luncheon and discussion at the Park Street Cafeteria followed by visits to the high school partial hospitalization program at Wallenpaupack and the Intensive Out-Patient program, ending with a dinner and discussion at the County’s Psych Rehab Drop-In Center at 910 Church Street, which will be open to consumers and their families.

The events wrap up with the second annual Open Mic Night for Suicide Prevention at The Cooperage, 1030 Main Street in Honesdale, on Wednesday, May 31 from 7 to 9 p.m.

System of Care Coordinator Ernie Laskosky, as well as the Family Tri-Chair representative Faith Phillips and Youth Tri-Chair representative Sydney Perrera, discussed the new philosophical approach of System of Care, which is youth guided and family driven, giving voice to youth and families to help transform the system.
It involves child serving systems, schools, physicians and others to create a trauma informed approach. Laskosky said System of Care is about changing our approach from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What’s happened to you?”

According to the Commissioners proclamation, one in four adults and one in five children experience mental health challenges in each given year.