The Institute for Family Health Hosts First Lady Chirlane McCray and the Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett for “Mental Health First Aid” Training

In Observance of World Mental Health Day


Bronx, NY (October 10, 2014) – In observance of World Mental Health Day, the Institute for Family Health’s Walton Family Health Center hosted a “Mental Health First Aid” training attended by NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray, NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett, Executive Deputy Commissioner for Mental Hygiene Dr. Gary Belkin and officials from the DeBlasio administration. The event served to promote awareness about the impact of mental health conditions on individuals and families across the city and nation, and teach skills anyone can use to identify and support individuals experiencing mental health concerns.

“We are delighted that the First Lady has decided to shine a light on the importance of mental health care,” said Dr. Neil Calman, president and CEO of the Institute for Family Health. “So many families suffer with undiagnosed and untreated mental illness – resulting in ongoing depression, substance abuse, violence, and premature death. The Institute for Family Health has been in the forefront of integrating primary care and mental health care, and ensuring that our entire staff has been trained in suicide prevention. It is fitting that the First Lady has decided to hold her first workshop here, at our Walton Family Health Center, where integrated care has been practiced for many years. ”

At the event, First Lady McCray remarked, “This special training is a productive way to recognize World Mental Health Day. Nearly all of us, at some time in our lives, will confront mental health and substance use issues. Too many people are suffering alone…we have to start talking, and keep talking.”

Mental Health First Aid is an innovative educational program that trains non-professionals to recognize risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, builds understanding of their impact and overviews commons treatments. The program focuses on concrete, actionable steps individuals can take to identify, support and assist individuals in need. The NYC Health Department began providing Mental Health First Aid training in 2010 and, to date, has certified 60 trainers and trained 1,200 New Yorkers.

During a break in the day-long training, Health Commissioner Bassett spoke about the need for greater attention to mental health issues throughout the New York City, but especially in the Bronx, where rates are much higher. “We all know that without mental health, there is no health,” she said. “Without being a physician or a therapist, Mental Health First Aid, like all first aid, allows us to bring the response into the community.”

Dr. Gary Belkin, the city’s executive deputy commissioner for mental hygiene, thanked the Institute for “exemplifying the kinds of community-based approaches that we need more of.” Dr. Belkin, Dr. Bassett, First Lady McCray and the other officials in attendance will be eligible for certification in Mental Health First Aid following their completion of today’s training.


Founded in 1983, the Institute for Family Health is a federally qualified community health center (FQHC) network that operates 27 health center sites in historically underserved communities in New York City and the Mid-Hudson Valley. The Institute’s health centers and other programs currently serve over 100,000 people annually. For more information about the Institute for Family Health, visit