New York

NYC’s Top Doctor, Recalling Personal Tragedy, Fights Back Tears as Mayor Unveils Mental Health Plan


While announcing a new plan to expand New York City’s mental health services, the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, fought back tears as he recalled losing a member of his own family to suicide.

Mayor Eric Adams unveiled the ambitious plan Thursday. It will primarily focus on child and family mental health, addressing the overdose crisis, and supporting New Yorkers living with serious mental illness. The plan will include telehealth and suicide prevention programs for NYC high school students.

“The COVID-19 pandemic — with the stress, isolation, and anxiety it brought so many of us — pushed mental health to the forefront of the conversation,” said Adams. “When it comes to health, we can no longer ignore the brain and focus just on the body any longer; we must address the whole person and the whole system.”

The city also wants to reduce overdose deaths by 15 percent in the next two years, and give New Yorkers with serious mental illness better access to specialty care and housing options.

“By investing in family and child mental health, addressing the overdose crisis, and supporting New Yorkers with serious mental illness, this plan focuses on where our need is greatest, going upstream to build a healthier city for all New Yorkers,” the mayor said.

The issue of mental health is close to Vasan: He lost an uncle to suicide when he was 10 years old.

“I became a doctor to be a healer. And one of the best things we can do to help New Yorkers heal, is to openly and unambiguously focus in mental health,” said Dr. Ashwin Vasan during a press conference.

Both Vasan and Adams have spoken about the harmful effects social media has had on today’s youths, and the health commissioner noted Thursday that “girls are displaying suicidal ideation at rates never seen before.” The new plan includes steps to intervene and provide access to help in the 90 days after a child attempts suicide.

To learn more about the plan, click here.

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling 988, call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting ‘Home’ to 741741 anytime.


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