May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the topic, which is important year-round, is now in the news more than ever.
“Mental health is getting more awareness since we as a society are experiencing so much instability,” said Jennifer Regester, clinical director, Anchorpoint Counseling Ministry.
According to Regester, depression, anxiety, and grief are all invisible struggles, but mental health professionals are equipped to assist. “We want you to know that there are people out there who see you and who hear you. Taking care of your brain is just as important as taking care of the rest of your body, so it’s vital that you make the time and effort to do so,” she said.
Anchorpoint offers professional outpatient mental health counseling services for children, teens, adults, couples, parents, and families. “Our counseling approach integrates emotional, social, cognitive, and spiritual health. If you are a person of faith, we support your beliefs in a way that is personally meaningful to you,” Regester explained. “If you do not participate in a faith tradition, that’s okay. We focus on what brings value and meaning to your life.”
In working with clients, Anchorpoint focuses on children, parents and families as a whole. “Our family counselors understand how important strong and healthy family relationships are to your mental wellness. We focus on strengthening existing family bonds and healing broken bonds with the people you love,” Regester said.
Anchorpoint’s holistic approach to mental health includes other programs and support services. In addition to individual, couples, and family counseling, they offer various therapeutic support groups as well as K-8 tutoring/mentoring and educational workshops/seminars. To learn more, visit www.anchorpointcounselingministry.org or call 412-366-1300.
Everyone should do a self-examination inventory of their mental health, according to Wendy Myers, licensed clinical social worker and owner of Find Your Balance, LLC and co-clinical director at Cancer Bridges. Find Your Balance LLC is a private practice where Myers sees clients with acute/chronic illnesses, offers caregiver support, and helps those with grief and bereavement and women’s health issues. Cancer Bridges is a local nonprofit that supports those impacted by cancer through a variety of free programs and services.
Myers explained that this self-examination is a vital component for mental health and is important for every member of the family. “Self-care begins with each individual in the family looking at their own needs. Then they need to communicate their needs effectively to each other, which includes sharing those needs and receiving and understanding the needs of your family members,” she said.
Myers said she uses a triangle when describing the hierarchy of needs to families. “It starts from the top on down: your own needs, couple’s needs, children’s needs, extended family, friends, colleagues, and then community,” she said.
Identifying those needs and determining which areas that you want to work on helps you determine what type of therapy is best for you, according to Myers.
“Focus on Wellness encompasses the ’7 Pillars of Wellness,’ which are things that you can control that give you a basis to evaluate your own physical health, mental health and spiritual health needs,” she said. These include movement, nutrition, sleep, stress (including present, past and future), intimacy/social connections, spirituality and environment.
“Once you look at these areas in your life and see what you may need to work on, resources can be suggested and support and guidance can be provided by a therapist who is trained in these areas,” said Myers.
For example, someone facing a difficult time connecting to their children or whose children are struggling may find a family therapist beneficial. Someone dealing with stress should seek a therapist who specializes in anxiety and depression associated with what may be the root cause of that stress such as unresolved grief issues, work-related issues, self-esteem issues or past family/trauma issues.
Myers suggests reaching out for therapist referrals from a number of sources, including primary care physicians, health insurance companies (ask for mental health services that participate on your plan), asking friends and family for support and referrals or going online to the Psychology Today website. To reach Myers, call 724-933-0202 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Dr. Ana Radovic, a pediatrician and adolescent and young adult medicine subspecialist at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, developed Supporting Our Valued Adolescents, or SOVA (www.sova.pitt.edu), a social media website in 2016.
”Adolescents and young adults go to social media for emotional support; sometimes they find amazing support, but often they find content which makes them feel worse, sometimes much worse,” she explained. “At a time of uncertainty navigating the online space, SOVA offers a safe resource for youth and by youth to support their emotional health.”
These services are especially important now, she added. “Throughout the pandemic, finding meaningful, positive, and safe online support has become even more salient than when we started this project to battle negative beliefs around seeking help for mental health almost seven years ago,” she said.
Many of the articles on SOVA are written by SOVA Peer Ambassadors, adolescents and young adults with prior or current depression or anxiety. There is also an accompanying resource for parents, wiseSOVA (www.wisesova.pitt.edu) which includes a mental health resource guide for parents to help quickly find the answers to important questions such as sharing your mental health family history with your child; when to seek help for your child; sleep disturbances and information about mental health advocacy groups, parent support groups, and treatment resources.
NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania and its affiliates offer free support groups that help individuals and families affected by mental illness connect with other people who are experiencing similar feelings and situations. Some support groups meet in person, but many are being held virtually, according to NAMI Keystone CEO Christine Michaels.
“We also offer educational programs that help individuals and families better understand mental illness and the importance of self-care, and we provide customized mental health awareness presentations for schools, workplaces, and community groups,” she said.
NAMI does not charge fees to participate in a NAMI support group or educational program so that there are no financial barriers. “Due to the pandemic, many support groups and classes are meeting virtually, so that eliminates any geographic or transportation barriers as well,” Michaels said.
More information is available at www.namikeystonepa.org.
Michaels stressed that NAMI does not want people who are reaching out for mental health services to feel like they are alone and to know that there is help. “There are support groups for a variety of communities and our education courses are designed to help peers as well as family members who have adult loved ones, youth, and veterans with mental health challenges,” she said.
NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania is located in the North Hills, just off of McKnight Road. It hosts the affiliate NAMI Pittsburgh North PA, which offers support groups and education programs. Anyone interested in becoming a member can email
More Resources to Help
Peer Support & Advocacy Network (PSAN)
PSAN’s mission is to build a community free of stigma, where individuals with mental illness work together toward recovery of mind, body, and spirit. It provides various services including education, outreach, and peer-to-peer services. www.Peer-support.org 412-227-0402
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Western Pennsylvania
This local chapter of the national organization is dedicated to saving lives and supporting those affected by suicide loss. Services include a 24/7 hotline, advocacy, and education. www.Afsp.org/chapter/western-Pennsylvania 1-800-273-8255 Crisis Hotline or text TALK to 741741
Allegheny Health Department
For a list of services, visit https://www.alleghenycounty.us/Human-Services/Programs-Services/Disabilities/Mental-Health/Services-For-Adults.aspx
UPMC Resolve Crisis Services is a partnership sponsored by Allegheny County and UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital with 24/7 crisis services available free of charge for all Allegheny County residents. Resolve’s mantra is that everyone defines his or her own crisis. They can assist with problems including having a bad day, a series of bad days, loss of a loved one, work stresses, or if you want to help a loved one with any of these concerns. A drop-in crisis center is located at 333 North Braddock Avenue.
The Trevor Project
The Trevor Project provides information and support to LGBTQ young people 24/7, year-round. Services include assistance in finding counseling, support groups and events. https://www.thetrevorproject.org
Crisis Center North
Crisis Center North provides empowerment and hope to victims of domestic violence, according to Executive Director Grace Coleman. Services include individual counseling and therapy, youth counseling and therapy, group counseling, case management services, legal and medical advocacy, mobile advocacy, canine court accompaniment and canine assisted therapy services, housing for victims and their companion animals, and more. 24/7 hotline (412-364-5556) Crisis Text and Chatline at 412-444-7660 and through https://www.crisiscenternorth.org.
Bridges the gap between Black people and mental health support through education, advocacy, and awareness. According to Julius Boatwright, founder and managing director, Steel Smiling’s 10-year vision is to connect every Black resident in Pittsburgh to a positive mental health experience that improves their quality of life by 2030. www.steelsmilingpgh.org