Creating Healthy Minds


Article Contributed by
Walt Pickut

Body building and physical strength are keys to a healthy lifestyle. Everybody seems to be talking about it and selling it 24/7.

A healthy body is everybody’s ideal. Ads for diet and exercise, gyms and running shoes, crowd each other out for space on the airwaves, in the papers, and on the internet every day. So, what about body building for people’s minds?

Mind and Body Together

Vibrant mental health and wellness are just as important – and may be just as achievable – as physical fitness. That’s why we are spotlighting Chautauqua County’s brain-fitness coaches for our minds as well as our bodies.

Mental and physical wellness in America appear to be on parallel tracks. Only about one in five Americans meet physical exercise guidelines, and only one in three exercise daily, according to a 2017 study published in Health News. Physical health is apparently not where everyone wants it to be.

In comparison, the mental health for about one-in every four Americans is also not up to par, according to Bob Ross, the assistant executive director for Southern Tier Environments for Living (STEL) with offices in Jamestown and Dunkirk.

“That means somebody close to you, maybe a neighbor, a friend, or even a loved one, may be dealing with a mental health issue,” Ross told the Gazette. “And the worst part of that is the unjustified stigma that comes with it.”

The Good News

“The good news,” according to Steven Cobb, executive director of the Mental Health Association (MHA) of Chautauqua County, “is that most of those problems can be successfully treated. The support system in the community is a critical factor.”

As proof of that, Cobb points out that MHA is totally staffed – including himself – by productive, local citizens who have recovered their own mental health from illness related to addictions of many kinds. “These peers,” Cobb promises, “can offer a unique perspective by sharing their own experience and knowledge.”

Learn more at or call 716-661-9044, toll-free:888-996-0642, or visit at 31 Water Street, Jamestown or 601 Eagle Street, Dunkirk.

“Our job is to remove a stigma that comes with mental health issues,” Ross added to Cobb’s advice. “Healthy friends and neighbors have wisdom to share. STEL offers special training for volunteers who join our Friendship Program. Sometimes all it takes to help someone overcome isolation and loneliness is a friend.”

Mental health, it appears, can be contagious, and those who have it can spread it.

Learn more about STEL at, or enroll in their Friendship Program by visiting 97 Forest Ave., Jamestown (716-664-5643, toll free 866-440-7707) or 715 Central Ave., Dunkirk (716-366-3200).

All Within Reach

“Wellness is possible and it is within reach,” according to Ann Rosenthal, M.A., PR Coordinator for Chautauqua County Mental Hygiene (CCMH), with offices in Jamestown and Dunkirk. The county offers “cutting edge services provided by certified counselors.”

CCMH emphasizes their availability and accessibility to the highest quality of comprehensive mental hygiene services for residents of Chautauqua County in the most efficient way, costing local tax-payers only one penny out of every tax dollar.

In September of this year, according to the CCMH website, “The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) under the U.S. Department of Health of Human and Services has awarded a $4 million grant over the next four years to CCMH for its Tapestry Resilience Initiative… a system of care, supports, community education, and other resources and partnerships for children, youth, and their families.”

According to Pat Brinkman, Chautauqua County Director of Mental Hygiene Services, as reported in the grant announcement, “This new funding recognizes the contribution of all of those partners and gives us the opportunity to further develop the system of care for children and their families.”

Learn more about CCMH by calling 716-753-4104 in Mayville, 716-661-8330 in Jamestown, or Chautauqua County Crisis Help Line at 800-724-0461, or visit

A Community Cares

Statistics for both physical and mental health in the general community are not that different from the statistics for the most in-need segment of the population. According to Jeff Rotunda, program director for the UCAN City Mission, about one in five of the temporarily homeless men served by the mission make use of local mental health services during their 30-day respite at UCAN.

“The community offers us a lot of resources,” Rotunda told the Gazette, “and those resources help our clients return to productive lives, work, and relationships.” UCAN provides services to develop both mental and physical resilience within and for the entire community.

Learn more about UCAN at, call (716) 488-7480, or visit them at 7 W. 1st Street in Jamestown.

Prevention Works

Everyone agrees that good health also means preventing illness. That is clearly true for both mental and physical health.

In that spirit, CASAC – Chautauqua Alcohol & Substance Abuse Council – has recently changed its name to Prevention Works (PW), with a heightened emphasis on mental illness prevention. CASAC, now PW, is a contract agency of CCMH and the New York State Office of Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Services.

According to Trish Whetstone, prevention education coordinator at PW, “We’re training anybody who works with adolescents (age 12 to 18) to recognize youth who are experiencing a mental health difficulty, an addictions challenge, or a crisis, as early as possible, and help them not to feel stigmatized, but supported and cared for.”

The PW course description promises to “introduce common mental health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development, and teach a 5-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics covered include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including AD/HD), and eating disorders.”

The PW course is evidence based, research supported, and provided by certified mental health first aid trainers. Learn more or register for the course by visiting Prevention Works at 501 W. Third Street, Suites 3 & 4 in the Sprinchorn Building in Jamestown, or contact Kathleen Colby, Director of Training Services. Call 716-664-3608 ext. 226, or email @

Stay Healthy At Home

Across Chautauqua County, a large network of community providers also works together to help Medicaid members receive and manage supportive services, especially mental health and addiction recovery. This free program is called “A Health Home.” But it is not a place. It is a program under CCMH that consists of many services provided at specific locations or sometimes in clients’ homes if medically necessary.
According to Deborah L. Maggio, Health Home marketing coordinator, local residents can be linked to mental health and substance abuse care, important community-based needs such as housing, food, transportation, and legal services, and case management in Chautauqua and neighboring Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties. Learn more about Healthy At Home by calling 1-855-613-7659, online at, or email

Body Building for Your Mind

Neither physical nor mental health happens by accident, and there is no stigma attached to caring to your body or your mind. The Jamestown Gazette’s message this week is intended to raise awareness of the resources available to create, maintain, sustain, and restore vibrant mental health for all of our citizens.

Previous articleWeek of October 14th, 2019
Next articleMustard
Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.