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Sharing Our Stories - Christie Bucchieri
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Christie came to us this Fall as a Level II Fieldwork intern. She is an OTA student at Mercy College, and her path to OT was not a direct one.

She explored the fields of cosmetology, nursing and physical therapy. But it was a chance meeting with the OTA Program Director at Mercy that brought her to her true calling. After hearing about the field of occupational therapy, she became captivated and set out to learn all that she could.

A Dean's List student and an innovative thinker with a big heart, she is now forging her own path. Her goal is to empower others and make change in the world.

We are honored and humbled that Christie chose to share her story here for the first time. Keep an eye out for more from Christie in the near future!


A powerful and personal essay by Christie Bucchieri






Break Mental Health Stigma
Let's talk mental health right here, right now! Public stigma is the reaction that the general population has to people with mental illness. Self-stigma is the prejudice which people with mental illness turn against themselves. Both public and self-stigma may be understood in terms of three components: stereotypes, prejudices, and discrimination.

Many people with serious mental illness are challenged daily. On one hand, they struggle with the symptoms and disabilities that result from disease. On the other hand, they are challenged by the stereotypes and prejudices that result from misconceptions about mental illness. As a result of both, people with mental illness are robbed of the opportunities that define a quality of life: good jobs, state housing, satisfactory health care, and affiliation with a diverse group of people.

Although research has gone far to understand the impact of disease, it has only recently begun to explain stigma in mental health. Much work needs to be done to fully understand the extent of prejudice against people with mental illness.

Strategies for Changing Public Stigma
Change strategies for public stigma have been grouped into three approaches: protest, education and contact. Groups protest inaccurate and hostile representations of mental illness as a way to challenge the stigma they represent. These efforts send two messages: To the media, STOP reporting inaccurate representations of mental illness. To the public, STOP believing negative views about mental illness.

A Personal Journey
I never thought I would ever admit I was a suicide survivor, that I even dealt with depression and anxiety, nor ever be writing about it. I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was a warm October afternoon. I paced back and forth because I couldn't handle the anxiety that pulsed throughout my body. I wanted it all to end. I didn't want to feel anything anymore. I reached into a drawer and pulled out a pill container and took a handful. A handful I instantly regretted.

For many years, I felt that all I knew was pain, negativity, and anger. I allowed it into my life because that's all I understood to be my normal. I share my story because the fight shouldn't be fought alone. I fought alone for years and internalized everything. I felt ashamed, guilty, unloved, on edge, empty, nervous, worried, and hurt to say the least.

Mental illness was embarrassing to me and everyone around me had absolutely no idea how to help me or that I was even suffering. I now realize it wasn't their job to help me, but it was my job to help myself. If you know someone who is silently suffering, be the person that makes them cry, but cry tears of joy by letting them know you're there for them, you're the one that will listen, and you're the one that is going to help in the steps of their journey.

I talk about the fight as a journey because it truly is so. It's constantly learning new things about yourself. What makes you happy? What makes you sad? What helps you cope with mental illness? Many years ago, I heard the song "Riders on the Storm" by The Doors. As a child, I remember my father idolizing the lead singer Jim Morrison, and I will never forget how captivated I was and still am by the first few words of it. "Riders on the storm, riders on the storm, into this house we're born, into this world we're thrown. Like a dog without a bone, an actor out on loan, riders on the storm."

This magical lyric was a poem being sung! I was so intrigued, I felt lifted on a cloud while I heard the notes of the organ playing in the background and truly understood the art behind the words, feelings, and emotions. I felt the music and it was such a rush. I wanted to learn how I could express myself to that extremity. I started to write poetry when I felt anxious or depressed and sometimes sang it to myself. Coping mechanisms are so important when dealing with mental illness. It's your body's way to release built up tension. Morrison was right in my eyes. We are all riders on the storm, the storm of life. At times it's an amazing storm with a beautiful rainbow, but at other times it's a tornado in which we're wound up so tightly inside of it. No matter where that storm takes you, know the strength of your mind, body and soul. Tap into that and believe in yourself.

Occupational Therapy's Role in Community Mental Health
The origins of Occupational Therapy are rooted in mental health, as the creation of the profession merged with the early 20th century's mental health hygiene movement. With the call for deinstitutionalization of individuals with mental illness, which culminated in the 1963 Community Mental Health Act, Occupational Therapy Assistants began working in community mental health (Scheinholtz, 2010). Today occupational therapy practitioners provide services in community settings including but not limited to:

Community mental health centers
Assertiveness community treatment (ACT) teams
Psychosocial clubhouses
Homeless and women's shelters
Correctional facilities
Senior centers
Consumer-operated programs
After-school programs
Worksites (Brown & Stoffel, 2011)

As services for individuals with mental illness have shifted from the hospital to the community, there has also been a shift in the philosophy of service delivery. In the past, there was an adherence to the medical model; now the focus is on incorporating the recovery model. This model acknowledges that recovery is a long-term process, with the ultimate goal being full participation in community activities. These activities may include obtaining and maintaining employment, going to school, and living independently. The philosophical base of the recovery model is a good fit with occupational therapy because of the purpose of occupational therapy in community mental health is to increase an individual's ability to live as independently as possible in the community while engaging in meaningful and productive life roles. Because occupational therapy facilitates participation and is client-centered, it plays an important role in the success of those recovering in the community (American Occupational Therapy Association [AOTA], 2010; Scheinholtz, 2010).



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