Mental Health Awareness At SCCC

6th Annual Mental Health Awareness Day

By: Erika Ruiz

The 6th annual Mental Health Awareness Day was hosted by the Counseling Center of the Suffolk Community College Ammerman campus on Oct. 12, 2011.

Admitting to having a problem is sometimes a hard thing to do. Anything from an accident, an illness, life change, death of a loved one, can create a rocky road in our lives. Sometimes, day to day living becomes too much to handle. The Counseling Center, made it clear, at one time or another, everyone needs help.

Tables were set up in the Babylon Student Center on Oct. 12, with organizations that lend out helping hands to children, teens, and adults struggling with problems from eating disorders, to domestic violence, anger issues, suicide and depression, obsessive compulsive disorders, etc. Guest speakers had presentations as well from 9:30am to 1:30pm.

Debbie DiFiore, counselor for the Suffolk County organization, Response, made it clear that there are many ways to seek for help. After a college student’s near suicide, members of the community discovered no such resource in the County was available that could help these types of situations. That’s when Response was founded in the early 1970’s.

Response has a 24/7 confidential hotline, (631)751-7500, with professionally trained and supervised volunteers who offer callers telephone support and help them explore options that might lead to additional support. Every day of the year, day and night, even holidays. Response also has online counseling, Hear2Help,, is available Monday to Friday from 3-9pm, if someone feels more comfortable being online then on the phone. Callers can talk privately with a Response counselor about any subject at their own comfort and convenience.

“Just pick up the phone. We are confidential and have easy, trained people to talk to you” DiFiore responded.

DiFiore also mentioned that volunteers are always welcomed. Internship opportunities are always available for anyone who give the best parts of themselves to help others. All volunteer counselors need to complete an extensive training and screening process, which includes lecture and role playing exercises.

Like DiFiore, Toni Calabrese, of the Suffolk County Coalition Against Domestic Violence (SCCADV), reached out to SCC students and announced there is help. Calabrese, a SCCC alumni from the class of 2002, explained that she is a part of a program of shelter and services for victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence isn’t always at home, now a days it is common in teen dating. Women aren’t always the victims, unfortunately children and sometimes men are the target.

SCCADV was founded in 1976, and its sole mission is to assist and help empower victims of domestic violence through provision of a wide range of services and to work toward the prevention of domestic violence. Services include a 24-hour hotline (631) 666-8833, for safety planning, crisis intervention, information and referrals.

Safe Harbor shelter provides safety in a supportive and caring environment. It was the 1st shelter to open in Suffolk County exclusively for victims of domestic violence. The shelter makes it possible for victims to escape the violence in their own homes. After surviving an abusive relationship, victims need the support and guidance of a trained counselor. Both group and individual counseling is available for adults and children.

SCCADV also has an employment program and extensive educational services where the primary objective is to assist victims in their effort to obtain economic independence. Resume writing, interview techniques, computer training, and job placements are some of the services offered. There are also legal services available. Legal representation in Family Court for child custody or visitation rights are available. As well as assistance in support orders and orders of protections.

“It’s not your fault,“ stated Calabrese. “Fear is the reason why people stay in relationships. But there is help.”

“It’s cool they’re [SCCC] are having this event. It shows that the school does want to get involved and help the students out. I’m glad they also had tables set up for people struggling to come out and admit their gay or lesbian. Everyone has issues, it’s just a matter of feeling comfortable and getting that help before it’s too late,” remarked Jay Castillo, student of the Grant campus.

Assistant Dean for Student Services and Director of Counseling, Dr. Thomas Tyson was beyond pleased with the outcome of the event.

“We had hundreds of students in attendance and many of the workshops were full or close to full. This is our sixth year, and the event gets better and is more well attended every year,” stated Tyson.

Students enrolled in the Ammerman campus, seeking help can go to the Counseling Center in the Ammerman Building, room 209 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. They can either stop by in person or call (631) 451-4053 to make an appointment. The counseling center is equipped with licensed mental health professionals who provide free and confidential counseling for a range of personal issues.

Tyson concluded, “My advice to students who want help, but are afraid or unsure, is to come down to the Counseling Center and ask to speak briefly to one of our mental health counselors. This will enable them to get a feeling for the kind of people we have providing services and hopefully lead to their setting up and appointment. I would also remind them that some of the most important things we do in life are the things that require us to leave our comfort zone and often make us feel afraid or unsure.”

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