Mental Health

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By Dr. Gary Altheim: The Fate of One Affects All of Us..

Our community has faced challenging times over the past nine months, and many of us have had to cope with personal and high-profile events involving divorce, domestic violence, drug use and suicide.

It may surprise you to know, for example, that the suicide rate in Lewisboro is three times higher than the national average. How is this even possible in a community as serene as ours? This is a very complex question, and there is no simple answer.

While it is understandable why people despair in these difficult times, or to pretend that nothing in our lives has to change, it is also very hard for some to face their inner truths.

In my work as a psychologist with teens and families in some of the toughest neighborhoods in the South Bronx and Washington heights, I have seen first-hand how individuals can overcome great adversity., Along the way, most of these people are very uncomfortable talking about sensitive and highly-charged issues; they wear “masks” everyday. Our culture sometimes reinforces that tendency to keep our masks on, to avoid facing our inner truths, as we find ourselves falling into a state of collective denial.

In the end, these demons will win if we don’t address them at the core—as a community willing to communicate.

The lights literally went out during the storm last October, leaving Lewisboro without power for five days. Disconnected from hectic modern life, this gave many of us a chance to reflect on ourselves. As we struggled to provide essentials for our families and our neighbors, the importance of community became evident. We could not achieve anything on our own, without the support of friends, loved ones, and others who believe in us.

Lewisboro showed its true strength and collective compassion, and now has an opportunity to come together and effectively respond to other recent challenges. Not as a fighter warrior, but rather as a true Buddhist warrior—a person who is honestly able to look at oneself and make a positive difference in the world.

As a community, we can create a safe place for individuals to communicate, educate and support one another. We can fight against collective denial—both individually and as a community. Then we can be empowered to come up with active goals and solutions!

Everyone—community leaders, the media, schools, the clergy, parents, youth and children—has the capacity to come together, and look for ways to move forward in a healthy way. Ultimately, we can create a safe place to help each other reach our potential individually, as families and as a community.

“The fate of one affects all” It only takes one light of love to brighten a huge dark room. Be the light.

Dr. Gary Altheim discusses mental health issues on