The Main Link Proclaims Mental Health Awareness Month
Alicia Sutton and Melinda Maryott of the Main Link in Towanda represented the agency at the May 5 Bradford County Commissioners meeting, where Sutton read a proclamation declaring May as Mental Health Month in the county. In so doing, Sutton and Maryott asked the commissioners, members of the public, educators, and members of other organizations to recommit their support of the Main Link’s endeavors to increase awareness and understanding of mental illness and to provide services for all people with mental illnesses.
The Main Link, 17 Pine St., Towanda, was opened in 2004 and is lead by Mark and Anne Beauchemin, director and co-director, respectively. There is also a Main Link in Sayre that opened in 1994 in response to the changes in healthcare delivery systems that addressed the concept of mental health consumer involvement in maintaining wellness, as well as relapse prevention (recovery). According to information posted at www.themainlink.net, the mental health drop-in center was created by mental health professionals and consumers associated with the Robert Packer Hospital Behavioral Science Center. Startup funds for the Main Link were provided by the Guthrie Healthcare System and Bradford and Sullivan County Office of Mental Health. Both centers are run by members and serve more than 250 individuals. The primary mission of the Main Link is to combat the stigma of mental illness and to enhance mental health services in the community.
Among the services offered by the Main Link are separate drop-in programs for youths and adults, a community service program, community integration programs, forensic peer support, outreach programs, and an art studio.
Both venues are considered “drop-in centers,” where mental health consumers may gather to socialize, play games, use computers, and enjoy a meal together in a nonjudgmental atmosphere. The youth version of the drop-ins are conducted in the evenings and monitored by adult members who have had background checks and child abuse history clearance. Main Link volunteers occasionally host drop-in events at other locations in Bradford and Sullivan counties.
The agency also hosts the local Bradford/Sullivan County Community Support Program (CSP), which provides a forum for consumers, family members, mental health professionals, and other interested parties to take part in mental health service development, in addition to sharing information and planning anti-stigma activities.
CSP representatives meet weekly in Towanda and Sayre and also attend the regional meetings in Scranton once per month. Their projects include designing and conducting educational workshops, wellness and nutrition classes, and community activities such as bowling or a visit to a fitness club.
Since 2002, the Main Link has provided community integration services to adult mental health consumers who are referred by the County Office of Mental Health or other clinical providers. Workers with the agency are often individuals in recovery who have experienced mental health difficulties and are able to serve as role models to demonstrate to others the potential for recovery.
The Main Link’s Forensic Peer Support Team was developed to provide services for incarcerated individuals. Team members provide weekly peer support to inmates and share information about community resources and other issues of interest to mental health consumers. Group dialogue centers on recovery, recidivism education (the revolving door), co-occurring disorders and methods of achieving personal mental health recovery, as well as goal planning. The Forensic Peer Support Team also provides post-release services that include assistance in community re-integration and meeting parole and probation requirements.
Main Link outreach teams pay visits to older mental health consumers in nursing and personal care homes and at the Behavioral Science Center facility in Sayre. Other teams visit patients at the Clarks Summit State Hospital.
Both venues exhibit art by members on a regular basis. Instructors give lessons in painting and drawing two days per week. The goal of the art studio is to encompass all of the essential elements in the art making process from conception and development of the subject matter, including choice of materials and size of artwork.
“The art studio has been a great draw,” said Mark Beauchemin. “It has been a great way for people to come into an established group.” Mark and Anne Beauchemin are artists who had conducted art therapy programs for psychiatric patients at Robert Packer Hospital. The establishment of the Main Link in Sayre was initially an extension or continuation of those programs, he explained.
Many of the pieces created by Main Link artists are for sale and have been displayed at the Anti-stigma Art Shows at the Bradford County Courthouse, in addition to other venues. On May 6, approximately 10 artists from each of the two Main Link centers exhibited art in front of the courthouse as a special feature of National Mental Health Awareness Month and the Main Link’s “Paint the Town Purple” campaign, which was held in conjunction with Towanda’s First Friday promotion.
Mark noted that he and his wife are strong proponents of such programs because they believe that the art experience enhances self-esteem and offers an opportunity for spontaneous socialization and serves as a tangible way to fight the stigma associated with mental illness.
“(Art) shows the diversity of people who struggle with mental illness,” Mark stated, “and it helps to integrate them into society and show what they are able to accomplish.” The Beauchemins conduct the classes in Sayre, and pioneer Main Link member Kent Mitchell conducts the classes at Towanda.
Alicia Sutton serves as a peer support worker for the Main Link, and Melinda Maryott is a chat line operator. For more information about the Main Link, readers may call 570-265-0620. More information about Mental Health Week can be found online at www.lookingforthisinfo.