Monday, November 26, 2018

Ward Stories

Ward Stories
Organized by Dan Frey, Editor in Chief
Four poets are featured in this Winter 2019 edition of Ward Stories. Ayesha, Louie Morano, Eva Tortora and Glenn Slaby have their poems featured below which describe lost loved ones, religious themes, and our soul’s journey. Enjoy!

Poem for my Grandfather
By Ayesha

I remember you Randy.
You were Randolph Nicholson.
A handsome man who, like my grandmother, remind me of alcoholic drinks and celebration music
Nat King Cole CDs I played at Christmas-time and Kwanzaa remind me of you.
The holiday season is almost here again 
I celebrate with alcoholic drinks a few times a year. A cold glass of wine or maybe a wine cooler. Miss you grandpa. 
I’m going to be 37 in January! I get carded all the time. 
I show my ID. I look 25.
I never want to abuse alcohol so I stick to planning my wedding.
Every time I meet a nice man I say “marry me” before we go further.
I need a commitment we can both honor before having sex.
I’m shining bright now.
I’m a poet, a blogger, a memoirist, a mentor and a granddaughter who remembers you all the time.
I thought of you today.

Work Will Seem Like Play 
By Louie Morano

Keep busy and stay active.
It’s a good way to live.
Believe in God and follow him
and you will surely win.

Be grateful for your blessings,
For small and big things.
It will make you happy and
you will feel free.

Love one another as Jesus said.
Say a prayer before you go to bed.
Sunshine will fill your day
and work will seem like play.

Key of Love
By Eva Tortora

And for all my imperfections
I have you
glorious you
to share my tune
to tune me to
the key of love
to the angels’ chorus 
up above
you to show
me how to sing
when storms don’t come
and hope can ring
you, you
glorious you
when I’m flying
you're beneath me in truth
thank you
for all the times
I could not see
it was your wings
that carried me
Bless you
my honored friend
this is only the beginning
and far from the end
and for all my imperfections
you glittered like gold
in truth and hope
it's you that I hold
inside my heart forever....

Soul’s Reach
By Glenn Slaby

Each of us stands alone
On the shoreline viewing

All us of stand together
On the edge of life

Not knowing tomorrow.
Viewing life’s limited vision
But seeing more.

Because our minds see less
Our soul reaches out deeper.
Like a blind man’s hearing.

Our souls are
More Complete.
Because of our imperfection.

Promoting Tenant Advisory Groups in Supportive Housing

Promoting Tenant Advisory Groups in Supportive Housing
By Carla Rabinowitz, Advocacy Coordinator at Community Access and Nicole Bramstedt, former Director of Policy at Urban Pathways
Another Effort to Empower Individuals in Their Own Communities
The Supportive Housing approach recognizes the inherent dignity in all people. Low-income tenants and people with mental health conditions who were formerly homeless are offered an affordable apartment combined with voluntary supports and services that can help increase self-determination. As the Supportive Housing model grows in New York and the country, tenant engagement and empowerment is recognized as a factor in maintaining secure and thriving residences.
Tenant Advisory Groups are a promising initiative taking hold in New York City Supportive Housing, and may be a new scalable approach to encouraging self-advocacy and recovery. In Tenant Advisory Groups, tenants meet to exchange experiences, propose solutions and initiatives, and provide feedback to management regarding issues in their residence. This setting encourages tenants to advocate for their needs and collaborate on meaningful decisions about their home-life and community. Creating an advisory relationship between tenants and staff also builds trust and mutuality, which can be an important foundation for people as they recover from the disempowerment they experienced while homeless. In addition, it strengthens tenants’ communication and leadership skills, as well as relationships with neighbors and community members.
Community Access, a 44-year-old nonprofit that empowers mental health recipients by providing quality housing and employment services, created a tenant advisory council known as the Program Participant Advisory Group (PPAG) over four years ago. One of the first in New York City, the tenants in this Advisory Group designed several initiatives including a program that offers small grants to tenant applicants trying to regain employment. Grant awardees have completed courses in such skills as massage therapy and medical billing, and have obtained licenses and certificates for commercial driving, food handling, and more. PPAG also supports the agency in quality assurance by helping administer the client satisfaction surveys for Community Access, which helps ensure tenants completing the surveys feel free to express their anonymous concerns. Community Access’ PPAG also initiated a monthly karaoke event. PPAG brings their own karaoke equipment to a different Community Access building each month and facilitates an event where tenants and staff share songs and build community. While people are there, information about other events and community resources are shared. Tenants travel from all over the city to different buildings, getting to know new neighborhoods and meet other tenants. These are some of the most well attended events in the agency, in part because they were started and are run by the tenants themselves.
Urban Pathways—a 43-year-old social services and supportive housing provider for homeless single adults in the New York metropolitan area—also has robust tenant advisory group efforts. Each transitional and permanent housing residence holds a regularly occurring self-advocacy group where individuals address issues in the residence and improve their self-advocacy skills. In addition, Urban Pathways holds a twice-monthly Thursday night issue-based advocacy group for current and former clients to become better issue-based advocates. Recent speakers include the Deputy Chief of Staff to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson as well as the Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff to New York State Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi on the role of the city and state governments in advocacy.
A Tenant Advisory Group not only helps Supportive Housing tenants, however; the approach also enhances the residence itself. In particular, the process helps ensure issues in the residence are addressed by residence staff and senior leadership in a way that respects the priorities and preferences of the tenants. Advisory Group members become trusted peers in each residence, and can represent the needs of neighbors who don’t feel motivated to self-advocate. The elected tenant leaders also provide a valuable and personal perspective to staff that they cannot access otherwise.
In this framework of engaging and empowering supportive housing tenants, a planning group held a Tenant Advisory Forum at Fountain House at 425 West 47th Street in Manhattan. The forum—the first in a series—focused on starting a Tenant Advisory Group and empowering tenant advocacy in Supportive Housing. Supportive Housing providers currently doing tenant advisory work—Community Access, Urban Pathways, and Breaking Ground—discussed barriers to creating tenant advisory groups, provided examples of best practices, and suggested resources for Supportive Housing providers interested in establishing groups.
In our next Forum in the Bronx there will be more audience question and answer sessions and chances to network. There will be new speakers and new ideas. Bring your questions and thoughts, and as you learn from us we will learn from you. Please just then say to join the planning group working on creating citywide tenant advisory councils reach out to Carla at 

Pullout: “…the process helps ensure issues in the residence are addressed by residence staff and senior leadership in a way that respects the priorities and preferences of the tenants.”

Myers–Briggs, Educational Path, and Career

Myers–Briggs, Educational Path, and Career
By William Jiang, MLS 
As an educator and librarian, I have often heard the question, “What should I do with my life?” To know what to do, one should, as Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher said to “Know thyself.” If you do not know yourself in terms of who you are or in terms of personality then talk to friends and family, think about your own personal history, as well as your strengths and weaknesses, as well as upcoming opportunities such as free education for full-time students at CUNY and SUNY, and threats, such as badly controlled mental, social, or economic issues.  
After one does all that thinking, maybe with help, one can take a self-test that can give you even more guidance: the Myers–Briggs. Although not a perfect tool, it can be helpful to help guide an educational and career path. When tested on the Myers-Briggs, everybody scores somewhere on the following scales of extraversion/introversion, sensing/intuition and thinking/feeling, judging/perception. 
So, what? If you are an extrovert and you want to be a librarian because you respect learning, this may be a problem. Extroverts draw power from socializing and other people. Librarians generally need a quiet environment to allow their patrons to do their research and study. Being a librarian for someone who scores high on extroversion is a clear mismatch for basic lifestyle. 
On the other hand, if someone is a INTPs (Introverted Intuitive Thinking Perceptive) type you may make an absolutely great mathematician. Why? Working at a high level of math, you need to spend many disciplined hours alone studying, memorizing, and conceptualizing abstract concepts (introversion, Perceptive, Thinking, Intuitive).  
The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is an introspective self-report questionnaire claiming to indicate psychological preferences in how people perceive the world around them and make decisions.
The MBTI was constructed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. It is based on the typological theory proposed by Carl Jung, who had speculated that there are four principal psychological functions by which humans experience the world—sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking—and that one of these four functions is dominant for a person most of the time. The MBTI was constructed for normal populations and emphasizes the value of naturally occurring differences. “The underlying assumption of the MBTI is that we all have specific preferences in the way we construe our experiences, and these preferences underlie our interests, needs, values, and motivation,” Kaplan and Saccuzzo’s Psychological Testing: Principles, Applications, and Issues (7 ed. 2009).
One can test oneself for free. Just Google “Myers–Briggs test” and maybe learn something about yourself. The Myers-Briggs can be a useful tool for education, but it is just a tool and it is imperfect. You are your own best captain.
Note: William Jiang, MLS is the Author of 63 books, including the bestselling books “Guide to Natural Mental Health, 3rd ed” and his critically-acclaimed autobiography “A Schizophrenic Will: A Story of Madness, A Story of Hope”. You can see a selection of his books about mental and physical health nicely laid out on his blog at or check out his Facebook at Mental Health Books.NET

Being Brave While Reaching Out For Love

Being Brave While Reaching Out For Love
Despite the Risk of Rejection
For people dealing with the challenges of mental illness, reaching out to someone can be scary. Not only does it hold the usual fears we have of being rejected, but it also makes us feel somewhat deceitful. We are not disclosing that we have a mental illness, or, if we are, we might not be explaining clearly how our mental illness affects us. 
A few years back, when I started an online search for a male friend, I did not put down in my profile the fact that I had a mental illness. I did not feel that it was an appropriate way to start a friendship. I felt that the best way to start was to describe myself as honestly as I could while not giving myself any labels. Telling someone your diagnosis can be disconcerting for them as they might not know much about the illness or be misinformed about it; this lack of knowledge can cause them to create a false impression of you. 
The men that I responded to were the ones whose profiles sounded genuine. I was seeking someone intelligent, sensitive and sincere. I communicated with a few men but had no luck. These men wanted what I could not give and wanted me to be someone I was not. My feelings were hurt but I knew they were not meant for me. 
I wanted a friend and convinced myself that that was all I really wanted. Little did I know that I in truth was wanting someone to love and be loved by in return. 
There was one man who I responded to that stood out from the rest. He was intelligent and honest in his description of himself and what he was looking for in a relationship. I wrote to him and he answered me with kindness and interest. I was very surprised because he seemed like someone out of my league. 
We continued our correspondence and I have to admit here that I was a bit challenging in how I communicated due to my insecurities. He maintained communication with me, however, despite this and also despite the fact that I blurted out that I had schizophrenia. I don’t know why it came out in this manner, but it did. What I learned from this was that he was a true gentleman in that he did not disappear from me. In fact, he knew of the illness for his mother had suffered from it as well. 
For two years we wrote to each other but there were long gaps in between due to me not being secure in myself that I would be liked, accepted and loved. He was a good man in that he did not give up on me altogether. Over time we became closer and I shared with him why I was reluctant to meet with him. But my explanations did not put him off and eventually we met in person. 
I cannot begin to tell you how happy I was to leave the virtual world and engage with this man in real life. Not that our writings to each other were false, but until you meet with someone in person, there remains doubts and fears and all sorts of imaginary ideas. When we met we could put these to rest. 
I see now that the difficulties I caused this man in getting to know me were due to my fears of not being loved. I tried to sabotage the relationship so that it would end and confirm my belief that I was unworthy of love. He stood by me, however, and over time we came to understand that we are both worthy of love, and that we both have a great deal of love to share with each other. 
I cherish the love and friendship I have with this man. I will not retreat back into my cocoon of insecurities. The key to finding love is in accepting the risk of rejection. When searching for that special someone, take rejection as being a part of the sorting process and that not everyone will be interested in knowing who you are. Do not be angry or mean-spirited as that is not the way of being a loving person. Be kind and gracious in all that you do and eventually you will find someone with whom to share friendship, love and companionship.

Pullout: “Be kind and gracious in all that you do and eventually you will find someone with whom to share friendship, love and companionship.”

Distance Education Might be the Way to Go

Distance Education Might be the Way to Go
By William Jiang, MLS
An Education from the Comfort of Home
Distance education is booming, and it will just get bigger as an industry and a more affordable and convenient option for students. It should democratize and lower the cost of getting a quality education. The dollars are flowing in and the students are enrolling in distance learning for reasons of accessibility, convenience, and generally lower cost. There are many good options for degrees today from associates degrees to MBAs and even PhDs. For degrees in the USA some of the most popular options are Arizona State University, University of Phoenix, DeVry, University of Maryland University College, SUNY Stony Brook Online Classes, Rutgers Online University, and many more. However, just like traditional universities, these options can be very expensive and will, in most cases, require financial aid to be able to attend. 
Online University is not for everyone. Online courses take a lot of discipline and self-motivation. Why? You are not in a classroom environment which can keep you in the zone and focused. The dropout rate for many online courses is high, historically. When I took an online course in managerial library science for library chiefs from Rutgers Online, the course started with twenty people; however, only four library managers, including myself, finished the course. At the end, I felt that I had survived. It was a great course, and I learned a lot about branding and nonprofit management, that I would not have been able to do otherwise. The course was led by an expert in management who became a relatively powerful politician. However, there was no way I was able to commute to Rutgers to finish a traditional course like that. So, distance learning was the only option. For me, that time, it worked. However, it was a lot of work, we had lots of reading and assignments, and the final examination was extremely difficult. 
Fortunately, there are free and low-cost distance learning options to try out before spending hundreds or thousands of dollars. Get your feet wet and get an idea if you want to take the more expensive distance education route for a degree. is a popular place to start looking for courses. Two lesser-known distance education resources are MIT OCW and Class Central. MIT Open Courseware ( is a great place to start learning at one’s own pace, with the exact same books, syllabi, assignments, and tests that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Students use for their elite brand of education. It is a great free resource. Class Central ( is an easily-searchable database of most of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) classes that exist in English. It’s really an amazing resource with literally thousands of courses on every subject you can imagine. So, Coursera is only the tip of the iceberg, there are many more MOOCs. Speaking of icebergs, I hope you find these class resources useful, and cool for the summer. 
Note: William Jiang, MLS is the Author of 63 books, including the bestselling books “Guide to Natural Mental Health, 3rd ed” and his critically-acclaimed autobiography “A Schizophrenic Will: A Story of Madness, A Story of Hope”. You can see a selection of his books about mental and physical health nicely laid out on his blog at or check out his Facebook at Mental Health Books.NET

From Locked Wards to Locked Cells

From Locked Wards to Locked Cells
By Carl Blumenthal
New Book on Mental Illness Behind Bars
We all know jails and prisons—not hospitals—are the largest providers of psychiatric care in the U.S. And that folks with mental illness are treated like s__t in these places. The truth is punishment for crime and recovery from mental illness mix as badly as a cocktail of psychotropic medication.
So why should we read Alicia Roth’s new book, Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness? 
There are so many ways that penal institutions fail our peers, you need a spreadsheet to keep track of them. Roth is the kind of investigative reporter who balances statistics, laws, policies, and history with how these abstractions reflect the messed-up lives of real human beings. 
There is Bryan Anderson, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, who spends his life savings helping people because God tells him to. When the voice says, “You’ve got to blind yourself,” Anderson gouges out his eyes while in jail. Miraculously, he becomes a peer counselor despite his trials and tribulations.
Troubled by mental illness since age six, Jamie Wallace murdered his mother at 16 and killed himself in prison at 24. According to Roth, hospitals, courts, and prisons all failed him. 
Kyle Muhammad was arrested 18 times in 35 years and hospitalized even more. “One gets the impression that every time he finds some stability in his life—a job, an apartment, a community-based treatment program that works—his illness is once again neglected, or he has a run-in with the law, and he ends up in the hospital or jail—or both.” 
Twenty-three years in solitary confinement hugely messed up Brian Nelson’s head. The prison medicated some of his symptoms but never recognized how severe his PTSD was. When he's finally released after a lawsuit over prison conditions, Nelson finds that the only psychiatrist who understand him works with victims of torture. 
At 16 Keith Vidal was so depressed his mother feared he would harm himself. When he picked up a screwdriver, she called the police to prevent that from happening. Two officers arrived and wrestled him to the ground. Unfortunately, this tactic didn't satisfy a third cop who shot Keith to death.
These stark tales are part of a larger, more complicated story of living with mental illness behind bars. Complicated, because Roth is a reporter obligated to understand everyone's point of view.
As a sympathetic interviewer she gains the confidence of prisoners and corrections officials alike. Maybe that's why she doesn't witness any abuse. Neither between guards and prisoners or among prisoners themselves. Nevertheless, she can’t ignore the reality that the chances of mental health recovery and prison reform are as likely as inmates and guards walking into a Hollywood sunset holding hands. 
Ultimately, Roth’s view of what prisons look like is a hive of cells where all the bees are dysfunctional. Given how little control inmates have over their minds and bodies, she’s fascinated by the many forms of protest; especially the ingenious ways they mess up the guards and their cells with their feces.
Roth discovers the ultimate purpose of mental healthcare is to make prisoners well enough to survive their incarceration, and the resources to accomplish even this rarely exist. She is skeptical that improved inpatient units in the Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York jails she visits will ever serve more than a fraction of the sickest inmates. 
Thus, to offer the reader some hope, Roth turns her attention to breaking the link between mental illness and crime before it's too late. She touts crisis centers, where those arrested get help before arraignment; crisis intervention training (CIT) for police to reduce conflict with those they call “emotionally disturbed persons”; mental health and drug courts to divert low-level offenders to treatment; and forensic assertive community treatment (FACT) for keeping people at home rather than in jail.
Alicia Roth is a keen observer, sympathetic interviewer, and dogged researcher. She recognizes the bind corrections officials, mental health care providers, and inmates with mental illness are caught in. Why? Because society prefers to keep all actors in this tragedy far off the stage of “normal” life. But Roth is still an outsider no matter how concerned. 
On Rikers Island, she meets Dr. Elizabeth Ford, once the head of Bellevue Hospital’s prison psychiatric ward, and now mental health director of the jail. In a recent City Voices review of Ford’s book (in the summer 2018 edition) about her time at Bellevue, I described what an adept observer and devoted practitioner she is. Ford notes every detail of what happens on the unit and still manages to do the best for her patients against overwhelming odds.
In her next book about the prison-hospital complex, I hope Alicia Roth will profile more folks doing good inside and out of those forbidding walls.

Pullout: “These stark tales are part of a larger, more complicated story of living with mental illness behind bars…the chances of mental health recovery and prison reform are as likely as inmates and guards walking into a Hollywood sunset holding hands.”

Letter to City Voices Editors

Letter to City Voices Editors:
I thought I was alone living in two, sometimes three worlds. I appreciate Christina Bruni’s courage (see Bruni in the City: We Feast Together from summer 2018 edition) in discussing this issue. Too often, I have heard people in the mental health arena say they only mix with their clubhouse friends or their family and neighbors. We close many doors to possible friendships when I feel we should try a little more. Thanks Christina for giving me a voice.
Tobi J.
Queens, New York