4 New Years Resolution Ideas to Improve Your Mental Health [Infographic]

New Years resolutions can seem daunting. They’re a set of goals or ideals to aspire to, but sometimes even the attainable ones can feel out of reach. This is especially true if you suffer from mental health disorders, like depression or anxiety, for example.

Don’t let the new year get you down. We want to help you kick off 2019 with confidence and hope. Let’s use this as an opportunity to take small steps towards self improvement. These can be coupled with therapy, counseling, or whichever treatment service works best for you. So take a look at some of the New Years resolution ideas below; they’re tied together by the themes of self-reflection, neurological balance, and finding value in people and/or activities.

Happy New Year, everyone.

 

New Years resolutions ideas_mental health

By |December 28th, 2018|Science|Comments Off on 4 New Years Resolution Ideas to Improve Your Mental Health [Infographic]

Co-Occurring Mental Health & Substance Use Disorders, and Patriots WR Josh Gordon

On Thursday, New England Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon announced on Twitter that he is stepping away from the game to focus on his mental health. According to a report, Gordon also violated the terms of the NFL’s substance use policy. His decision brings up an important conversation about co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.

We applaud Gordon’s decision and support him as he seeks long-lasting recovery. Earlier this year, Gordon missed training camp while he sought counseling for anxiety. It’s quite common for someone with mental health issues to also have substance use issues. Gordon has been suspended in the past for repeated violation of the league’s substance use policy.

Co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders affect approximately 8 million people in the United States. They’re especially dangerous because one disorder can mask the symptoms of the other, and too often people will seek treatment for only one of them. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “the consequences of undiagnosed, untreated, or undertreated co-occurring disorders can lead to a higher likelihood of experiencing homelessness, incarceration, medical illnesses, suicide, or even early death.”

The following are signs and symptoms to look out for, but these can vary from person to person:

  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Using substances under dangerous conditions
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Loss of control over use of substances
  • Developing a high tolerance and withdrawal symptoms
  • Feeling like you need a drug to be able to function

Treatment options will also vary from person to person, but there are ways to treat both a mental health issue and substance use issue.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) suggests the following services, as per consultation with a therapist, counselor, or doctor:

  • Detox
  • Inpatient rehab
  • Residential housing
  • Psychotherapy
  • Support groups
  • Medications

We at the Gándara Center understand the immediate need for treating co-occurring disorders. We’re currently hiring to staff a 16-bed enhanced residential rehabilitation services program for women with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.

The program, based in Ludlow, will take a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment, employing evidence-based and peer support methods including community, clinical, psychiatric, and medication-assisted treatment services. Wellness resources and activities will help patients build protective measures against co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders, and expose them to social skill-building opportunities as a pathway to achieving long-term recovery. These may include art, music, and fitness events; community fellowships; and mental health support groups.

We identified 14 Chestnut Place, the former location of the HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Western Massachusetts, as the site for the program. The opening date has yet to be determined.

 

Featured image via Erik Drost(CC BY 2.0)
By |December 20th, 2018|News, People|Comments Off on Co-Occurring Mental Health & Substance Use Disorders, and Patriots WR Josh Gordon

3 Reasons You Should Donate to Aventura!, our Western Mass Summer Camp Program [Infographic]

The testimonials we’ve heard from parents and kids who spent time at our Western Mass summer camp program are heartwarming. There are so many benefits to supporting an experience like this. It’s all about providing our local youth with an opportunity to grow in different ways. Kids can meet new friends, make new memories, and enjoy a level of self-confidence and self-esteem they may not usually get to at home. Since 2016, we’ve had the privilege to send almost 145 kids to camp.

Last year, we gave camp scholarships to 40 kids. This year with your help, we think we can do better.  Here are 3 big reasons you should donate to our Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship program:

3 reasons to donate

By |December 19th, 2018|Events|Comments Off on 3 Reasons You Should Donate to Aventura!, our Western Mass Summer Camp Program [Infographic]

Read Our December Newsletter Online!

Check out Gándara Center’s December Newsletter online. You can read about our successful #ValleyGivingTuesday efforts; end-of-year giving opportunities to our Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship; and our Executive Director Henry East-Trou’s retirement in May of 2019. Pictured above are some of our Aventura! campers at Camp STAR Angelina in Springfield’s Forest Park.

Also in the newsletter: photos from our Blood Drive/Job Fair on December 11; the Spanish version of the Gándara Center website; and treatments for seasonal affective disorder.

In addition, our agency sponsored Janiah Rivera in the Miss Bella Hispana Pageant at the MassMutual Center on December 1—and she was crowned Junior Bella Hispana! View photos and video of her crowning.

Read the newsletter at http://mailchi.mp/gandaracenter/december-newsletter-2018.

By |December 17th, 2018|News, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Read Our December Newsletter Online!

End-of-Year Giving: Help Us Send Kids and Teens from Low-income Springfield Families to Summer Camp

We want to give our sincerest THANK YOU to everyone who helped support us on #ValleyGivingTuesday! Thanks to your generosity, we were able to raise an additional $895 for our Aventura! Summer Camp Scholarship, which sends Springfield youths from low-income families to summer camp for free.

Now, in this season of giving, there is still an opportunity to make an impact on the lives who need it the most. Help us give these kids an experience they’ll never forget: a session of SUMMER CAMP, where children and teenagers build their self-confidence as they try new activities and make new friends. Where kids can be kids.

Parents who lack child care find it difficult to find affordable, safe opportunities for kids when school isn’t in session. Summer camp is the perfect environment for these youngsters, and it provides parents and caregivers with peace of mind that their child is being socially, emotionally, and physically engaged in a safe setting.

Last year we had 40 scholarship recipients. We want to send even more children to camp this summer!

If you missed out on #ValleyGivingTuesday and haven’t made your end-of-year gift, we hope you will seize this amazing opportunity to give the gift of fun and outdoors for kids who deserve it. Make a tax-deductible donation today!

By |December 17th, 2018|News, Uncategorized|Comments Off on End-of-Year Giving: Help Us Send Kids and Teens from Low-income Springfield Families to Summer Camp

Community Responds to Blood Drive/Job Fair on December 11

Katherine and Conor Bevan (top left), had plenty of motivation to give donate blood at our Blood Drive/Job Fair we held on December 11 in conjunction with the American Red Cross: 20 months ago she needed an emergency blood transfusion while giving birth. “I lost 90 percent of my blood,” she said. “I would have died if there wasn’t enough blood available. This is our way of giving back.”

Abiezer Colon (top right), a Family Partner at Gándara Center, said he donated blood because “it’s the right thing to do. It feels good to help others.”

The Blood Drive was held in response to a critical blood shortage in the U.S. since this past summer because of a rise in demand. Participants were also able to learn about career opportunities at our agency during our Job Fair.

The event included a great showing by Gándara Center employees. Thanks to everyone who headed over to our offices at 80 Commercial Street in Holyoke for this important initiative. We met our goal and collected 19 pints of blood!

By |December 13th, 2018|Events, News, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Community Responds to Blood Drive/Job Fair on December 11

Largest Turnout Ever for Gándara Center Holiday Party

It was a fantastic holiday party on Saturday, December 1 at Chez Josef in Agawam. Some 300 Gándara Center Western Region employees rang in the holiday season with great food and great times. Special thanks to the music group Los Gigantes de la Plena and our DJ Mark Watkins from our SHINE program!

Our Executive Director, Henry East-Trou, who is retiring in May, was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his exceptional leadership and dedication to the people we serve (pictured below).

IMG_8827

Congratulations to all the raffle prize winners, the wearers of colorful holiday sweaters (some with bright lights), and those who received certificates of appreciation in recognition of their years of valuable contribution and dedication to the Gándara family:

20 Years
Mary Gustafson
Wanda Tosado

10 Years
Rachel Garfi
Victoria Giard
Jeff McGeary
Kristen Owens

5 Years
Eva Gomez
Katia Gonzalez
Melissa Morrissey
Eliel Negron
Kristine Rodriguez
Ruth Roman
Alexcelin Saldana

View video of the dance floor!

By |December 4th, 2018|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Largest Turnout Ever for Gándara Center Holiday Party

Not Just Winter Blues: What is Seasonal Affective Disorder & What Are the Treatments?

People and media will tell you the holiday season is supposed to be a time for celebrating and good cheer. But it doesn’t always feel that way. The holidays can be stressful and put a strain on your physical and emotional wellbeing. For many, this is made worse by seasonal affective disorder—sometimes referred to as seasonal depression. Because it can be as distressing as other disorders, and shouldn’t be characterized as just winter blues, we put together this guide to answer some of your most important questions: what is seasonal affective disorder? Do I suffer from seasonal affective disorder? What causes seasonal affective disorder?

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

SAD is a form of depression, so it doesn’t have its own standalone entry in the DSM-5. That doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly, though. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in order to be diagnosed with SAD a person must meet the full criteria for major depression during specific seasons for at least two years. It’s caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain due to shorter days and less sunlight, which is why SAD tends to be seen more in the wintertime. This causes a person’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, to shift out of sync.

Recognizing SAD Symptoms

Depression can manifest itself in many ways. Symptoms of major depression can include the following:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Having low energy
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having problems with sleep
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide.

Because SAD symptoms can vary as the seasons change, the following symptoms can include the following for winter and summer:

Light box therapy / Image via Lou Sander (CC BY SA 4.0)

Light box therapy / Image via Lou Sander (CC BY SA 4.0)

Winter

  • Having low energy
  • Hypersomnia
  • Overeating
  • Weight gain
  • Craving for carbohydrates
  • Social Withdrawal

Summer

  • Poor appetite with associated weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Episodes of violent behavior

Treatment for SAD

There are four primary ways of treating SAD: light therapy, Vitamin D, medication, and psychotherapy. Medication dosages and psychotherapy sessions should be discussed with your primary care physician, therapist, or clinician.

Light therapy is exactly as it sounds. According to Harvard Health Publishing, light therapy “entails sitting close to a special ‘light box’ for 30 minutes a day, usually as soon after waking up as possible. These boxes provide 10,000 lux… That’s about 100 times brighter than usual indoor lighting; a bright sunny day is 50,000 lux or more. You need to have your eyes open, but don’t look at the light.”

Light therapy isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment. The amount of light people need varies on an individual basis. Some people are more sensitive to light than others.

Vitamin D therapy works on the same principle as light therapy; people who suffer from SAD tend to have lower levels of Vitamin D, and so a method of treatment is to provide more Vitamin D. Not surprisingly either, a good source of Vitamin D is sunlight intake.

From a scientific perspective, the jury’s still out on Vitamin D therapy. Studies have shown mixed results and correlations, though there is no definitive evidence that a Vitamin D supplement can effectively treat SAD.

Facts and Stats

  • Between 50–80% of light therapy users have complete remissions of symptoms
  • Seasonal affective disorder occurs four times more often in women than in men and the age of onset is estimated to be between 18–30 years
  • Those living farthest from the equator in northern latitudes are most susceptible: In the United States, 1% of those who live in Florida and 9% who live in Alaska experience SAD.
  • SAD can co-occur with other depressive, bipolar, attention deficit, alcoholism, and eating disorders, making it difficult to diagnose.
By |December 4th, 2018|News, Science|Comments Off on Not Just Winter Blues: What is Seasonal Affective Disorder & What Are the Treatments?