Goodbye to Stigma, Hello to Recovery: Interview on Mental Health with MHC President Luis Perez

Updated: Mar 8, 2020

Image Credit: Mental Health Connecticut/Twitter

September 8 to 14, 2019 is National Suicide Prevention Week in the United States. Mental Health Connecticut President Luis Perez shares why addressing mental health is important and describes what resources are— or should be— available to people who seek mental health support. Learning about mental illness can lead to mental wellness. 

1. Why is mental health important to address? 

Mental health refers to one’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Everyone is impacted by their mental health, which can affect how one thinks, feels, and interacts with those around them. Mental health is not static nor does it qualify simply as good or bad. Mental health travels along a continuum where one can feel mentally healthy and strong while others feel hopeless and frustrated.

Approximately 1 in 5 American adults experience a mental health condition in a given year. Knowing more about mental health and mental illness can better prepare us to respond to our own needs or the needs of others in a mental health crisis. In fact, it’s critical to know that people with mental health conditions can live successful, integrated lives in the community and recovery is possible.

2. What services are necessary to address mental health? 

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), long-term mental wellness is achieved through four pathways: Home, Health, Purpose, and Community. Below is a breakdown of how MHC meets those needs.


MHC offers residential programs throughout CT, which include supportive housing, supervised apartments, youth respite transitional housing, and step-down housing.  Residential services are provided in Bridgeport, Danbury, Stamford, Torrington, Waterbury and West Hartford and include one of the only residential programs in the country designed specifically to meet the needs of individuals with co-occurring mental illness and deafness.


Through educational opportunities and activities such as medication management, smoking cessation, physical activities, and healthy eating classes and competitions, MHC is committed to ensuring individuals have the knowledge to implement wellness strategies into their daily lives.


MHC offers supported employment in Waterbury and West Hartford designed to assist clients with achieving valuable purpose through employment.  MHC provides assistance with choosing a job or career path, finding job openings, securing employment, and/or retaining employment once hired. MHC also offers supported education, which assists clients with attaining GEDs, certifications and/or advanced degrees.  Services include identifying schools, applying to schools, and identifying supports to promote success.


MHC promotes social connectedness throughout the agency by hiring staff who care about the people served and work to engage them with peers and the community.  Specifically, MHC offers the Independence Center (IC) in Waterbury, which provides a safe place for people with mental health conditions to come together to learn, access supports and participate in community-based activities.  A voluntary program, members and staff work collaboratively to take responsibility for the work of the club, including cooking, cleaning, and planning events and activities. 

3. How do you think a country that treats mental health as a taboo topic and stigmatizes mental health patients can become more accepting of the issue? 

Mental Health Connecticut’s (MHC) mission is to improve mental health for all Connecticut residents. For individuals striving for long-lasting wellbeing and independence, MHC is a trusted companion on the complex journey to obtaining a safe home, achieving whole health, realizing a meaningful purpose, and becoming an active member of the community. We put hope into action for people who have endured years – sometimes decades – of life’s obstacles. We provide our program participants with the tools they need to achieve long-term wellness and recovery. All around us, we see stigmas breaking, illness becoming wellness, and no shortage of people coming together to help one another.

We envision a future where people with mental health conditions are treated fairly and can access the support they need to sustain long-term health and wellness. Until then, we will continue to combat discrimination resulting from a mental health diagnosis, educate the community about the importance of mental wellness, and invest in continual improvement for our team and the individuals we serve.

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