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“Not a “flop house,” Water Street Mission now expects guests to work a plan out of homelessness”

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This January 11, 2015 LancasterOnline article talks about changes one Mission is making in how they help people who are homeless.

“Mental health program recognized”

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This July 25, 2013 article on the Lancaster Online website talks about a Pennsylvania mental health organization that has recently been recognized on the national registry of evidence based practices listing for its work in helping people with mental illnesses.  The organization is Compeer Lancaster.

The registry can be found at … http://www.nrepp.samhsa.gov/

“Lancaster County office is renamed”

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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This January 2, 2013 article on the Lancaster Online website talks about the recent name change for the former Lancaster County Office of Mental Health/Mental Retardation/Early Intervention which has recently changed its name to the  Lancaster County Behavioral Health/Developmental Services.  to reflect the 2011 change in language used in state law.

“Program teaches inmates one of hardest lessons”

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This article found on LancasterOnline.com dated February 10, 2012, talks about a program called “Hopes, Choices and Values” done by the Lancaster Mental Health America to help inmates.

“Stigma busters tackle mental health”

This article was found on the LancasterLive.com website at the following address … http://articles.lancasteronline.com/local/4/228394  The article discusses stigma and how it effects folks with mental illnesses.  the article is dated October 7, 2008, but I feel the message it conveys is still something that is important and much needed.

Stigma busters tackle mental health
MHALC presenters challenge mental illness misconceptions






During their school presentations, Julie Armold and Gretchen Gaudioso, of Mental Health America of Lancaster County, challenge kids to choose.

Who has a mental illness?

Is it Armold or Gaudioso? Or both?

They remain mum until near the end of their educational presentation, when they ask kids to vote, based on their impressions.


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The duo also challenge students to examine misconceptions and preconceived notions about mental illness.

True or false:

People who suffer from mental illness commit more crimes than people without mental illness.

Everyone with a mental illness ends up homeless or living in a mental institution.

People who are mentally ill are able to enter into recovery and live relatively normal lives.

It’s easy to tell who is mentally ill.

Case in point.

“They usually vote for the person without a mental illness,” says Gaudioso, referring to herself, an MHALC client/family advocate.

In this case, it’s actually Armold, a part-time peer educator.



In 1996, Armold was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which is characterized by pronounced mood swings.

An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Recovery can be bumpy.

Armold’s has been filled with trial, error and triumph.

But as a person with mental illness working in the mental-health field, she is in a unique position to battle stigma and build bridges.

Two years ago, she became a MHALC peer educator.

“The position was created out of a brainstorming process in line with the whole recovery movement in mental illness,” she says. “With shutting down mental hospitals, we’re not just releasing (people) — we’re integrating them.”

The idea was to bring someone into the position who is also in recovery.

“It’s really positive that she has a good recovery story, and maybe (people diagnosed with mental illness) haven’t heard about recovery and don’t know that they can recover,” Gaudioso says.

“They see Julie and see how well she’s doing.”

Armold, 45, speaks at mental-health units, in schools and prisons, and to community and professional groups — often with Gaudioso — sharing her own experiences and what has worked and not worked in her recovery.

She says she believes her late mother, who often flew into rages, was also bipolar, although she was never diagnosed.

“Just like I got my mother’s eyes, I got her illness,” Armold says.

Armold sought help for drug and alcohol abuse in her early 20s, but the highs and lows, including suicidal thoughts and spending sprees, continued.

Meanwhile, there were suicides in her family. Her brother-in-law set a house on fire, resulting in the death of himself, his wife and their children.

After Armold started raising her own kids, she began to feel a rage that mirrored her mother’s.

She worried about the effect on her children.

“I was afraid my kids would grow up like I did. I started to believe if I took my life, my kids would be better off without me,” she says.

Armold cycled in and out of the hospital and was caught in a web of anger and depression.

Even after her diagnosis, she struggled with medications and acceptance.

“Medication doesn’t work like an antibiotic,” Armold says. “You have to stay on it.”

But despite her illness, she built a firm foundation in social services, working for the shelter for abused women, at drug and alcohol rehabs, and in credit counseling.

Today she thrives on education and helping others, and she has become more comfortable with her own recovery.

“It takes a lot of work and commitment, and it’s not easy,” Armold says. “I think people hear you more when they know you’ve been there.”


Armold and Gaudioso are stigma busters.

Stigma surrounding mental illness is still real, they say, but hopefully lessening, due to education and disclosures by people in high-profile professions.

At a recent presentation at Lampeter-Strasburg High School, several kids raise their hands when asked if they know anyone with a mental illness.

One young man reveals that he has struggled with obsessive-compulsive symptoms.

Relying on a chaotic display of balloons, music, blinking lights and shouting, Armold and Gaudioso illustrate what it’s like for people with schizophrenia, who hear internal voices.

To help bring the idea of stigma home, Gaudioso and Armold ask the students to wear name tags, with words like “stupid” and “crazy.”

Gaudioso and Armold then refer to the kids by their label names.

“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” Gaudioso says. “Not true.

“Names do hurt.”

 Presentations by Julie Armold, Mental Health America of Lancaster County peer educator, and Gretchen Gaudioso, MHALC client/family advocate
CONTACT: To schedule a school or community presentation, contact Gaudioso, 397-7461.




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