Local Church Provides Blue Christmas Service to the Community

MHA in Niagara County is sharing this on behalf of the “Blue Christmas Service” organizers.

WinterMost people think of Christmas as a happy time for families and friends. But for some people, the holidays just intensify feelings of sadness if they’re going through rough times. That why the Rev. Dr. Skilbred is offering the fifth annual “Blue Christmas” service at First English Lutheran Church in Lockport, NY.

Whether you are feeling blue, have lost a loved one to death, divorce or illness or are unable to recover your health, job or identity as you once knew it, the Blue Christmas service provides a coming together of people who understand that life has seasons of sadness and that grief needs room to breath in safe places. Members of the congregation and people from all walks of life in the community are invited to attend this special service.

When: Sunday, December 21, 2014

Time: 7:00 pm (sanctuary)

Where: First English Lutheran Church, 185 Locust Street, Lockport, NY.


The Mental Health Association in Niagara County and the Niagara County Department of Mental Health together provide residents of Niagara County, New York,  with Information and Referral services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Need Help? Call the Help Line: (716) 433-3780.

Our Help Book is available as a pdf download from our website.

Please consider supporting the programs and services of MHA Niagara with a membership or one-time donation. You can learn more more about us by visiting our website.

Robin Williams’ Suicide Brings Mental Health Issues to the Forefront

By Stacy Knott, Coordinator, Compeer Niagara for Adults
sbowman@mhanc.comTransit Drive In

“While we are deeply saddened by Mr. Williams’ unfortunate passing, we can celebrate his greatest efforts to lift our spirits by entertaining us with his movies, while hoping to provide help to others who someday may need their own spirits lifted on their darkest of days.” – Transit Drive-In

Note: This past fall, the Transit Drive-In Theater in Lockport, NY, selected the Mental Health Association in Niagara County as the designated charity for a Robin Williams triple feature film tribute on Labor Day weekend, as well as a double-feature tribute the following weekend. During the films, the Mental Health Association was on-hand to present educational materials to the public at an information booth. Stacy Knott managed the table several evenings and observed the public reaction.

I personally had the pleasure of sitting at the table for hours and disseminated countless pieces of literature but what struck me the most were the questions from so many in wonder of how could someone with so much going for them, possibly feel depressed to the point of suicide? It made no sense to them that an individual with so much money and fame could take their own life. Undoubtedly, there’s a certain amount of reason for this belief but the reality is that depression (like all mental illnesses) doesn’t take personal factors into account. Depression can affect anyone at any time.

I also discovered by running the table that the stigma of a mental illness is a huge problem. It was almost as though many feared approaching the table because the table cloth read “Mental Health Association”. Each time I walked away and the table was “safe” to approach for free information, several gathered round. Although I was elated that the information was being sought out, it was disheartening to see firsthand that people with a mental illness often suffer more from the stigma than they do from the illness itself. It drives many away from getting the professional help they need based on fear of what others will think.

Williams actually died of a disease—a terrible, terrible disease. Depression consumed the man, and it killed him, too, even if it used his hands to do it. I can’t help but think: if we as a society talked more frankly and openly and without shame about depression, if we took depression more seriously as a disease rather than as an issue of deficient willpower or character, maybe we wouldn’t lose so many irreplaceable  people—our heroes, our visionaries, our friends, our family—year after year”

-Graham Bishop

Typically, glamorizing suicide is the absolute worst thing you can do but in Williams’ death, it seems as though the media created an opportunity for people to open up about their own struggles. Thank you, Transit Drive-In, for offering this tribute and for selecting our agency to participate. Our agency searches for various opportunities to break down the stigma surrounding mental health. It is the selfless generosity from large-hearted people that continue to make it possible for us to take on this issue.


This article first appeared in 2014 fall edition of our newsletter, The Voice.

Mental Health Association offers “Before I Die” wall to the community

Before I Die whiteboard2

Board created by staff of MHA in Niagara County.

May is a special month to the Mental Health Association in Niagara County. Not only do we promote May is Mental Health Month, but we are celebrating our 50th year of service to the community. Our age makes us reflect: what have we accomplished? What is yet to be done? Are we making a difference?

Our executive director, Cheryl Blacklock, recently learned about the “Before I Die” project, which is essentially a global art project that invites people to write on enormous blackboards in response to the prompt, “Before I die…” This opportunity to publicly express private aspirations has generated a strong response from people all around the world. Community boards have sprung up around the U.S. and in faraway places like Australia and Taiwan.

Here at our office in Lockport, NY, the MHA staff started their own project by making use of an existing whiteboard in our conference room. Responses so far have ranged from “Before I die I hope I can travel the world” to “Before I die I want to invent something.” Our board has inspired many of us to reflect, and our responses have sparked many conversations around the lunch table.

We want to invite you to write on our board, too!  No matter where you live, you can participate. If you are local, feel free to visit our office at 36 Pine Street, Lockport, NY and add to the board we started in our conference room. If you are not local, or just can’t make it to the office, we invite anyone reading this to contribute to our virtual board using the form below. That way, wherever you are, you can be a part of our community.

To participate virtually, just enter your thoughts in the form and click “submit”–your response will be added to the MHA Niagara community project. You can see all the responses people have submitted here.

Of course, if you wish you can submit online and come and write on our office board. While you’re here, you can visit our resource library or pickup a free brochure about a mental wellness topic. You can also join the Mental Health Association in Niagara County, ensuring that our services and programs continue to meet the needs of our community. We offer individual memberships starting at just $15 for the year! For more information about our programs and services, please visit our website at mhanc.com.

Be well,

Pamela Szalay

Coordinator of Publicity, Community Education and Referral at the Mental Health Association in Niagara County, Inc.

Niagara County Community Services Directory Now Updated

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The Mental Health Association (MHA) in Niagara County, Inc., is now distributing the 28th edition of the Help Book, a pocket-sized phone directory of Community Services created specifically for residents of Niagara County.

First published by the MHA in 1981, the Help Book is part of a larger Information and Referral Program in Niagara County. In addition to the printed edition, which is available for a small fee of 25 cents, the MHA also offers a free online version and a 24/7 phone referral system called the Help Line. The online directory can be found on the MHA website  while the Help Line offers live assistance at 716-433-5432. Staff members from the MHA answer calls during office hours while Crisis Services of Niagara County handles the calls after hours.

For convenience, the listings in the Help Book are organized into over 25 categories such as Emergency Phone Numbers, Children/Youth, Counseling, Employment, Family, Food, Legal Issues, Post Offices, Senior Citizens and Veterans, to name a few. Website links are also provided when available.

MHA believes that the Help Book and Help Line are more important than ever, even though national services like 2-1-1 have tried to compete. The Help Book is updated regularly by people who live and work in the community. Employees of MHA regularly attend community meetings and gather the latest  local information, even before it is generally available to the public. A call to the Help Line gives you the inside scoop!

If you would like a copy of the Help Book 28th edition, please call us at 716-433-3780. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Can you let us know how you find information for Niagara County? Please take a moment to answer our poll! Thank you.