Chirlane McCray Speaks at Cathedral About Mental Health Awareness

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New York City’s first lady Chirlane McCray addressed congregants at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Pentecost Sunday as part of “ThriveTogether: A Weekend for Mental Health,” a nationwide outreach to highlight the need for education, compassion and open conversations about mental health and addiction.

“We come together with one purpose—to care for one another, because when it comes to mental illness and addiction, too many people are suffering,” said Ms. McCray, who spoke at the conclusion of the 10:15 a.m. Mass May 20.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

As faith and community leaders across the country spoke during the third annual weekend, Ms. McCray also spoke at a mosque in the Bronx, a synagogue in Manhattan and two churches in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

She shared some staggering statistics. Of the 5 million people who walk through the cathedral each year, “an estimated 1 million of those worshipers are living with some kind of mental health challenge—one in five, that is how widespread mental illness and substance use disorders are in our country.”

Noting that they are diseases, Ms. McCray said, on average, those who suffer wait 10 years before seeking treatment. “As with most illnesses,” she said, “the longer the wait, the more serious the disease can get.”

“We are in the midst of a full-blown crisis, but because of stigma and shame, it has been a silent crisis—until now,” Ms. McCray said.

“Today, I ask all of you, whether you are a lifelong New Yorker or a visitor from the other side of the world, to become a mental health helper and healer.”

Ms. McCray encouraged all to learn more about mental illness and addiction, and about the resources available in their community.

She announced a 24-hour mental health help line for New Yorkers in need, or for those concerned about a loved one, 888-NYC-WELL (888-692-9355) and a national help line, 800-662-HELP (800-662-4357).

She encouraged people to take the course “Mental Health First Aid”, which offers a basic understanding of mental illness and addiction, and teaches how to connect people to care. The course is free in New York City.

“We want everyone to know that there is always hope and there is always help,” Ms. McCray said.

Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of the archdiocese, served as principal celebrant and homilist.

He noted that “we’re raising up the fact that there is a lack of inner peace in so many of our neighbors.”

“We as religious people need to do our part to make sure that none of us categorizes that inner lack of peace, those illnesses, as sins...

“We need to be people who say that that Spirit of Pentecost is a healing spirit, who say, ‘Come Holy Spirit, enkindle within us the fire of your love, and of your peace.’”

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