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Suffering from the holiday blues?

New Horizons CEO: ‘Mental illness hits Blacks at alarming rate

D. Kevin McNeir | 12/25/2013, 9 a.m.

We’re supposed to be happy and jolly during the five-week period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. We’re supposed to look forward to the holidays and anticipate a time of happiness and fellowship. But experts say that many people find their anticipation and excitement turning into feelings of depression, commonly called the holiday blues. Symptoms vary: headaches, insomnia, uneasiness, anxiety, sadness, intestinal problems and unnecessary conflict with family members and friends. Over-drinking, overeating and fatigue may also be the blame And then there’s the current recessionary economy that further exacerbates many of us who are already stressed out or depressed. But what can be done to curb these emotions and where can members of our community get help?

Well, one of the best kept secrets in South Florida is the New Horizons Community Mental Health Center, Inc. [1481 NW 36th Street], whose CEO, Dr. Evalina Bestman, 72, has returned to the helm after a seven-year retirement, to guide the Center that she successfully directed for close to four decades. The Center will mark its 40 years in Miami next year with a host of celebratory events scheduled to begin in the spring. For Bestman, it’s business as usual — making sure those who are least able to afford mental health care get the treatment they so badly need — at a rate they can pay.

“It took a bit of an adjustment — getting up and following a predetermined schedule — but I chose to do it and I’m in good health,” she said. “The key was that I had the chance to return to serve my community at an important time.”

Services aimed at challenges facing Blacks

New Horizons is known for its outpatient and partial hospitalization care with areas of expertise that include: youth with serious emotional disturbances; persons with mental and substance abuse disorders; persons with post-traumatic stress disorder; lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered clients; and forensic clients. Other services include: residential substance abuse treatment for mothers that either have toddlers or are pregnant (usually court ordered); and medication management.

“Some of our mothers need help with parenting skills and a path towards stable housing and a drug free life,” she said. “They have to learn to live independently and for some of them that’s a brand new way of living. Something that we’re focusing on much more are diabetes and depression and the fact that they often go hand in hand. And depression is not just being isolated. For children, we often see it expressed in extreme acts of rage or violence — just look at what’s happening here in Miami-Dade County or across the U.S.”

Dr. Angela Brinson, clinical director, New Horizons, has worked in private practice and is a previous behavioral/emotional academic counselor for Miami-Dade County Public School students. She says children in the urban core have real needs.

“Kids today are attached to cell phones and videos and many are latch key children,” she said. “There’s no adult supervision. But the most troubling development is that a large percentage of them have become completely desensitized. I’ve worked for years with Miami-Dade youth that had committed murder and for them it was like they had been part of a video game. They didn’t see what they had done as being something real. For some of them, the reality of their deed never sinks in. We tend to make T-shirts that lionize those who have been killed. What we need is to get these kids treatment for mental illness.”