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Mental Health Initiative
Community Conversations

WBFO's Mental Health Initiative Facebook Live and YouTube Live events are an engaging way to connect with the community through social media. Each event is focused on a singular topic and brings different experiences and perspectives together into one conversation.

Our conversations have focuses on the changes in mental health treatment over the years, the stressors related to the reintegration of students and faculty into in-person learning, exploring issues that contribute to stress and negative impacts on LGBTQ+ youth, mental health and policing, availability and accessibility of housing for people living with mental illness, mental health during COVID-19, the New York State mandate for teaching mental health, how inside Crisis Services hotlines respond to citizens in need, personal experiences of living with mental illness, and how mental illness is portrayed in pop culture. Watch them online now (below).


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Back to School: Navigating a New Normal | Community Conversation Series

WAtch NowBack to School: Navigating a New Normal | Elementary & Middle School

As part of WBFO’s Mental Health Initiative, Buffalo Toronto Public Media presents a three-part virtual series exploring the stressors and available resources for students, teachers, and faculty returning to in-person classrooms in the fall. This first discussion focused on elementary and middle school students. Academic transitions present a number of challenges for students, teachers, and parents and these pressures are heightened by new routines under the pandemic. Increased isolation has been difficult for many families, especially children. Effects of the pandemic can be associated with higher levels of anxiety and depression.

This virtual discussion series explores topics related to the reintegration of students and faculty into in-person learning. Topics include mental health and behavioral supports in schools, resources for parents, caregivers and families, and support and training for faculty and staff. 

WBFO’s Mental Health Initiative is funded by the Patrick P. Lee Foundation.

Moderated by Dave Debo, WBFO News Director
Jill Glowniak, LCSW, Family Support Center in Amherst Central School District 
Anne Landrigan, M.Sp.Ed., Coordinator for Student Services, Elmwood Village Charter School
Amanda Robert, Parent

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LQBTQ+ Mental Health: What We All Need to Know | Community Conversation

WATCH NOWLGBTQ + Mental Health: What We Need to Know

Being LGBTQ+ is NOT a mental health challenge. However, LGBTQ+ youth often face external forces and stressors that can impact mental health. Stigma, discrimination, bullying, and hate speech are often reported experiences from LGBTQ+ youth and can be traumatic events that significantly influence a young person’s life and mental wellbeing. Buffalo Toronto Public Media partnered with GLYS to host a community conversation and panel discussion exploring issues that contribute to stress and negative impacts on LGBTQ+ youth on September 23, 2021.

Robert DiGangi-Roush, Executive Director of GLYS, served as host and moderator for LGBTQ+ Mental Health: What We All Need to Know. The panel discussed some challenges LGBTQ+ youth experience and how the intersection of social class, accessibility, religion, age, race, ethnicity, and more can impact mental wellness. The panel offered information for parents, caregivers, peers and the community on access to mental health care and services for LGBTQ+ youth. 


Dr. Robert DiGangi-Roush (he/him & they/them), Executive Director of GLYS Western New York, Inc. has their undergraduate and Master's Degrees from The State University of NY at Buffalo, where their graduate work was in non-profit Administration. Their PhD is in Alternative and Complementary Healthcare from Westbrook University. Their dissertation is still used internationally as a textbook for creating a complementary and alternative healthcare clinic. In it, they used the same service wraparound concept that is now part of GLYS's Youth Gender Affirmation Program. 

Vivian D. Logan (she/her/hers), LMSW, APC; Outreach and Engagement Specialist with Horizon Health Services has worked in the Human Service field and in the field of social work for 20 years as a Licensed Masters Social Worker, prior to that she obtained an undergraduate degree in Psychology. Her MSW program at SUNY Buffalo entailed a program concentration in Families and Children and Mental Health. She has completed her doctorial course work, and currently preparing to conduct her research and complete her dissertation with UOP’s-online program in Educational Leadership and Administration. Her dissertation focuses on the leadership perspective of culturally responsive teaching practices as a method to engage and enhance the academic standards of ethnically and racially diverse students. As she believes a need exists for leaders to be culturally competent, understand the various theories of how people learn, and why factors such as “race, power, legitimacy, cultural capital, poverty, disability, ethnicity, gender, age, and language” can affect learning styles and skill development. In 2022, she will begin her quest to become a life coach, focusing on all areas of well-being.

Andrea (Andi) Binner (she/they) has worked in the Human Service field since they received their 1st Master’s Degree in Education/Counseling Psychology from St. Bonaventure University. Andrea also has a Masters’ degree in Social Work from the University at Buffalo. She started in the field working on a psychiatric unit/Emergency Room and then a Partial Hospitalization Program in Jamestown, NY. Andrea has enjoyed a mix of assisting both adult, teens and children throughout her 29-year career thus far. Andrea was trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and conducted research on HIV at SUNY – Binghamton where she earned her BA in Psychology. She also volunteered in helping individuals to grow safer, related to risk for HIV and other STI’s by assisting students, professors and anyone that wanted to learn about how to help make sex fun and consensual, while learning to have more agency over their sexual health. She continued this work at Evergreen and the Pride Center in 2015-2016. This is where she co-facilitated a Trauma Informed Psychoeducation group for people who identified themselves and Transgender/Non-Binary or Gender Expansive. Andrea has been in Private Practice full-time since 2016 in Buffalo, NY.

Jennifer Parrack has a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and has been living and working in Western New York for the past 11 years. She is currently employed by New York State.  She is a certified Our Whole Lives instructor, a comprehensive sex education curriculum that spans all ages. She is passionate about combatting bias in health care and the legal system (and life in general), from racism and transphobia to ableism and fat phobia. Jennifer is mom to two other panelists, 17-year-old, Allie (she/ her pronouns) and 14-year-old and Rin(they/ them pronouns).

Thank you to GLYS partners: Dr. Robert DiGangi-Roush, Executive Director and Rev. Susan Frawley, Community and Parent Outreach Coordinator and Pastor of the Hamburg Unitarian Universalist Church.

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Finding Home: Mental Health and Housing | Community Conversation

WATCH NOWMental Health & Housing: Finding Home

One of the largest issues individuals with mental illness face is the availability and accessibility of housing. The lack of safe and affordable place to live is a tremendous barrier to recovery and to the prevention of homelessness, hospitalization, and movement through the criminal justice system. Unhoused individuals living with mental illness face a variety of obstacles that are intersected and exacerbated by the lack of affordable and accessible services in the region.

WBFO News Director Dave Debo host “Finding Home,” a panel discussion on issues surrounding the lack of housing options for those living with mental illness. This conversation includes current work to combat the closing of housing options, the housing landscape in the greater Buffalo area for individuals with mental illness, effects of the housing shortages, as well as efforts in education, prevention, and intervention for individuals and families. 

Included on the panel are Mark O’Brien, Erie County Commissioner of Mental Health, Kelly Dumas, LCSW, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer at BestSelf Behavioral Health; and community member and advocate Patricia Seifert. 

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 Mental Health and Policing: Do Crisis Intervention Teams Work? | Community Conversation

Watch NowMental Health and Policing

WBFO News Director Dave Debo hosts “Mental Health and Policing: Do Crisis Intervention Teams Work?,” a dialogue about the various changes under consideration in Buffalo, including greater use of Crisis Intervention Teams, embedding social workers with police, and other reforms under broader consideration. 

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 Your Mental Health During COVID-19 | WBFO Facebook Live Series

As COVID-19 leaves us in in a dual crisis of physical and mental health, we hosted a series of Facebook live discussions on your mental health related to the coronavirus pandemic.

THURSDAY, MAY 21, 2020Your Mental Health during COVID-19 | Addiction & Suicide

WBFO welcomed credentialed alcohol and substance abuse counselor Karl Shallowhorn to talk about addiction and risk of suicide amidst a global pandemic. He spoke about integrated treatment, the biology of addiction, and how mental health first aid can help you assess someone's risk of suicide.

THURSDAY, MAY 14,2020Your Mental Health during COVID-19 | Frontline & Essenti

Dave Debo, WBFO’s News Director, talks with psychiatrist Dr. Sourav Sengupta from UBMD Psychiatry and Oishei Children’s Hospital about the mental health of those facing COVID-19 on the front lines - first responders, healthcare workers and those in essential businesses.

THURSDAY, MAY 7, 2020Your Mental Health during COVID-19 | Older Adults & Isol

Dave Debo, News Director, welcomes Dr. Ursuline Bankhead, a psychologist working in geriatrics and with older adults at the VA WNY Healthcare Center. She answers questions and comments from older adults and their caregivers regarding the range of emotions this population is experiencing during this pandemic.

THURSDAY, APRIL 30, 2020Your Mental Health during COVID-19 | Children and Adolescent

Dave Debo, News Director, welcomed Dr. Aimee DiPasqua, a child psychiatrist from Spectrum Health and Human Services. She answered questions and comments from parents and other caregivers regarding the range of emotions children are experiencing during this pandemic.

THURSDAY, APRIL 24, 2020Your Mental Health during COVID-19 | PTSD

Host Dave Debo, WBFO’s News Director, talked with local Advanced Practice Clinician, Ofer Ziv, from Horizon Health Services about signs and symptoms of PTSD, how you can help those who struggle with it, and how this health crisis is having an impact on all of us.

THURSDAY, APRIL 16, 2020Your Mental Health during COVID-19 | Stress and Anxiety

Host Dave Debo, WBFO’s News Director, talked with local mental health counselor, Erin M. Moss about stress and anxiety.

Your Mental Health During COVID-19| Podcast Series

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Joker: Mental Illness and Pop Culture| Facebook Live Event

Joker: Mental Illness and Pop Culture

In this Facebook Live, we examined how mental illness is portrayed on the big screen through the lens of the blockbuster film “Joker” staring Joaquin Phoenix.


We looked at how accurately the film portrays people suffering from mental illness. For example, does the film incorrectly strengthen the link between mental illness and violence?


“Joker” isn’t the only film with title characters suffering from mental illness. “Finding Dory,” “Inside Out,” “Psycho,” “A Beautiful Mind,” “Silver Linings Playbook” the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” and more feature main characters struggling with mental illness.

Watch Now

Join the conversation on WBFO’s Facebook page .


Nick Lippa: Host and WBFO reporter for the Mental Health Initiative

Karl Shallowhorn: Education Program Coordinator at Community Health Center of Buffalo

Alex Garcia: Mental Health program director at Horizon Health Services' Broadway Recovery Center

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Let's Talk | Mental Health in the African American Community 

WBFO's Mental Health InitiativeLet's Talk: Mental Health in the African American Community

Let's Talk | Mental Health in the African American Community

African Americans are disproportionately more likely to suffer from mental health issues than white Americans. According the US Department of Health and Human Services, in 2015 African Americans were 20 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than white Americans, and African Americans are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia as white Americans. Despite these statistics, African Americans are less likely to receive behavioral treatment. Why?

In October 2019 the community was invited to Let's Talk, and open discussion of Mental Health in the African American Community at the Frank E. Merriweather, Jr. Library. Host Karl Shallowhorn from the Community Health Center of Buffalo was joined by Keli-Koran Luchey, At-Risk School Counselor at Sweet Home High School, Mental Health therapist Erin M. Moss, Kelly Marie Woffard of Front Seat Life, and Pastor George Nicholas from Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church.

Local Mental Health Resources:

Crisis Services Hotline: 716-834-3131

NAMI in Buffalo and Erie County: 716-226-6264;

Mental Health Advocates of WNY: 716-886-1242;

Community Health Center of Buffalo: 716-986-9199;

Support for the WBFO Mental Health Initiative is provided by the Patrick P. Lee Foundation.

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Watch Online Now | Living With Mental Illness at 22 | Facebook Live Event

Living with Mental Illness at 22
WBFO was Live on Facebook with "Living With Mental Illness at 22"

The statistics are concerning:

  • One in five young people, ages 13-15, experience a severe mental disorder at some point in their life.*
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death in youth age 10-24 and 90% of those who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness.**


*Any Disorder Among Children. (n.d.) Retrieved January 16, 2015, from
** Isometsa, E.T., (2001). Psychological Autopsy Studies - A Review. European Psychiatry, 16(7), 379-85. Retrieved December 6, 2018, from​

As part of our Mental Health initiative, Buffalo Toronto Public Media hosted a Facebook Live event on the topic of mental illness among young people.

WBFO reporter Nick Lippa was joined in conversation with Kaitlyn Ledzian and Juliana Hill, both 22 years old and both youth peer advocates with Mental Health Advocates of Western New York.

Youth peer advocates have lived experience, meaning they have a mental illness that is stabilized, and are credentialed to assist other young people who are experiencing mental illness.

They talked about the rise of anxiety, depression and suicide among youth.

Watch the recording on this page or join the conversation on WBFO’s Facebook page

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Watch Online Now | Crisis Services: Lifeline For Help 24/7 | Facebook Live Event

Crisis Services: A Lifeline for Hope | Watch

WBFO hosted a Facebook Live conversation on location at Crisis Services. We were inside the facility, where 24/7/ hotlines are open to respond to citizens in need. Crisis Services responds to - mental health/illness crisis – suicide – rape victim – domestic violence victim – child abuse – where to find helped for loved ones in crisis – drug over does – drug addiction and mobile outreach.

We answered questions from our Facebook audience and explained how the public relies on Crisis Services to respond to their ‘life-emergency’.

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Teaching Mental Health | WBFO Facebook Live Event

Teaching Mental Health | Watch

As 2018-2019 the school year begins, a new law mandates mental health education for students across New York. We're discussing the new curriculum that aims to teach children about their mental well-being and what it means for teachers and students.

As part of WBFO’s Mental Health Initiative, senior reporter Eileen Buckley led a conversation with New York State Regent Catherine Fisher Collins, who represents Western New York; Michael Cornell, Superintendent of the Hamburg Central School District; and Mark Laurrie, Superintendent of the Niagara Falls School District.

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In Pursuit of Healing | WBFO Facebook Live Event

As part of WBFO's Mental Health Initiative, senior reporter Eileen Buckley lead a panel discussion about the dramatic changes in treatment over the years. Panelists discussed "breaking the stigma" to generate a new understanding of mental illness.

The focus of WBFO’s Mental Health Initiative is to normalize the conversation about mental illness by bringing this issue from the shadows into everyday light. This two-year project will provide in-depth coverage of mental health issues and help to build the mental health literacy of our community.

WBFO's Mental Health Initiative is funded by the Patrick P. Lee Foundation