Tag Archives: behavioral health

Danny’s Story


Danny is a talented, hardworking young man who mentors youth in his community and enjoys practicing martial arts. One day while walking home from school, he was at the wrong place at the wrong time and was involved in a tragic incident. As a result, Danny got caught up in the justice system through no fault of his own. Part of his court mandate was going to therapy, which he got at our Residential Treatment Facility and Cohen Family Wellness Center. Now he pays it forward by serving as an advocate for himself and other young people. Danny was a featured speaker at The Child Center of NY’s 70th anniversary gala. Below are his prepared remarks. You also can watch the video above to hear him tell his story at the gala.

Hello, everyone. Tonight, I am here as an advocate. The Child Center invests in young people and their families, and they supported me when I needed it. The Child Center provided me with a great outlet. I did therapy for two years with a counselor who really helped me. I have experienced several challenges and I wouldn’t be where I am today without that support. I will share my story to show you that when you invest in young people, you help them live healthy, fulfilling lives. Young people can be positive influences on other young people and be change agents in their communities. I am living proof of that. I have a much longer story to tell, but I will make it brief for you.  

 I have a brother who struggles with mental disorder and it made my home life very difficult. He’s been in psychiatric facilities since he was little, and he missed out on his childhood. He is impulsive and has violent tendencies, so I was always in survival mode. I pressured myself to protect my baby brother from our older brother. I worried about his safety. My mother is a single mother, and I did everything for my baby brother while she was at work. 

 The situation at home made me depressed and I was having trouble in school. I used to be a good student, but I was skipping classes and it was really out of character. Things were really rocky.  

 When I was sixteen years old, there was an incident where I was stabbed while walking home and it was a case of mistaken identity. I study martial arts and I defended myself. Unfortunately, the other person ended up partially paralyzed. And because both of our fingerprints were on the knife, we were both charged with attempted murder. This incident occurred at the height of the pandemic. And because of COVID regulations, my case moved slowly, the court date was delayed, and I was held in a detention center for over 8 months.  

 My family usually doesn’t show their emotions. But the day I was sentenced, I saw my family express their emotions for the first time and cry. I felt horrible.  

 Luckily, the house across the street had surveillance cameras and video was able to show everything that happened. My innocence was proven. The court expunged the case.  

 But the judge determined that because of the injuries inflicted on the other person were so severe, I used excessive force. She recommended that as part of my probation, I go to the Child Center’s Residential Treatment Facility, which also houses justice-involved youth. Part of the court mandate was that I go to therapy.  

 Therapy was a lifeline for me. After that whole experience, I have made big changes in my life. I made an effort to stay away from negative influences. I learned who I could trust and lost a lot of friends in the process. I moved out of the city and dedicated myself to becoming better. It’s gotten better. Through therapy, I’ve explored parts of myself I didn’t even know I had. I used to live in the past and I lost myself. I’ve learned to think ahead now.  

 I’m studying to get my real estate license and am an assistant manager at a retail store located near a middle school. The kids I see every day who come into my store, I can relate to them, I give them advice. Mentoring comes naturally to me. I was also a martial arts instructor. I used to visit schools and teach kids self-defense. I enjoyed this very much and plan to continue mentoring kids in the future. 

 I also visit my little brother and take him out, do fun things together because he should enjoy a normal childhood. My therapist taught me that it’s not about the time, it’s about the quality of the time you spend with someone. My little brother is six years old now, and he still calls me “Dad’ to this day because he sees me as a Dad. I’ve been a consistent – and the only – father figure in his life.  

 The Child Center showed me how to cope, distract myself from negative thoughts and identify what is going on. I can pursue a more normal life now. My coping skills, being able to identify problems, have helped me. Through my mental health counseling, I look at everything now with a different lens. When I look at friends, I ask, what baggage do I carry, what baggage do they carry? How can we help each other?  

 All the things I’ve learned at The Child Center enable me to pursue my dreams. I can work on my goals, be there for my family and have the tools to overcome challenges.  

 Like I said in the beginning, I am here as an advocate to tell my story and shed light on what’s happening with our youth. I am here as a testament. Our work here as a community is imperative to youth, especially those who’ve been given a bad hand, through no fault of their own. This is the way to lift each other up and build a brighter future, together. Thank you. 

Team Spotlight: Abraham Santana, MSW, on Creating a Safe Space for LGBTQ+ Youth

Child Center of NY Social Worker Abraham Santana works with LGBTQ+ youth at the Cohen Family Wellness Center in Woodside, Queens

Abraham, a social worker at The Child Center of NY

The Child Center began in 1953 as a single children’s counseling center, based on ideas that were ahead of their time: that children could need mental health services; that serving whole families is a critical component of serving children; and that serving the larger community is at the crux of it all. Seventy years later, we remain as committed as ever to serving the communities—geographic and social—that need us.

Right now, the LGBTQ+ community needs us. Continue reading

Jonathan’s Story

Below is a speech that Jonathan delivered during the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Cohen Family Wellness Center. You can listen to additional thoughts that Jonathan shared during an interview with amNY, above. Credit: amNY, Kyle Sweeting, and Jason Schwartz.

Hello everyone, my name is Jonathan, and I have been involved with The Child Center for about three years.

To begin my journey, I started with Zoom calls due to the pandemic and restrictions placed by COVID-19. The resources provided by The Child Center helped with resolving many of the issues I was suffering from and helped me overcome major challenges that were tied to my anxiety.

It took me a while to warm up to my therapist due to the unusual circumstances, but when I became comfortable, that’s when my journey decided to pick up speed.

When I went to the clinic for the first time, I was tense and overwhelmed. Due to the country opening up and returning from a remote environment to an in-person environment, I was on edge and all over the place. I was worried that I would lose all the progress I had made during the Zoom sessions. But my therapist helped me ease my worries and helped me with my transition to this new life.

At the time, I was scared of everything happening around me, afraid of change, and intimidated by the smallest challenges that life presented. Although these problems never seem to cease, the ways to manage these stressors were some skills that I would eventually pick up in my therapy sessions.

Jonathan with Amazin' Mets representatives at the Cohen Family Wellness Center in Woodside, Queens

Jonathan (second from left) at the grand opening of the Cohen Family Wellness Center. Learn more: childcenterny.org/photo-of-the-month-cohen-family-wellness-center/

The [Cohen] Family Wellness Center created the resources necessary for my improvement. I felt like I had no cure, and although it seemed like that at the time, I would later be proven wrong.

I learned that I was not the only person to have these uncomfortable symptoms. I was not the only person to live this type of way. I was not alone in this struggle.

This sense of belonging would bring me great comfort, allowing optimism back into my life once again. This place helped me grow, helped me change into someone that I am proud to be.

I would have never imagined the progress I would have made; it still amazes me today.

I would like to happily share that due to the progress I made at this place, I was able to accomplish some achievements that I could have never possibly imagined. This would include my role as valedictorian for my class of 2023, and being a Macaulay Scholar attending Queens College in the fall, majoring in psychology to pursue a passion of being a therapist or clinical psychologist. This passion was inspired by my time at The Child Center.

To end things off, I would like to thank my therapist, Abraham, and my psychiatrist, Dr. Yang, along with my parents and siblings who supported me through this journey. I do not know what type of person I would be without them.

Thank you.

Mental Health Awareness Month: The Crisis Among Our Children, Three Years After the COVID-19 Pandemic Began

Governor Hochul at mental health plan announcement

By Linda Rodriguez, SVP, Behavioral Health, Early Childhood, and Community Partnerships

Governor Hochul at mental health plan announcement

A photo of Governor Kathy Hochul announcing her mental health plan, taken by the blog author

As a multiservice organization that provides mental health treatment and support to young New Yorkers, before March 2020 we were busy, serving more than 40,000 New Yorkers annually through our behavioral health, early childhood education, youth development, and other programs across the city. Since then, the intensity of our work has profoundly escalated. Continue reading

Photo of the Month: Welcome to the Cohen Family Wellness Center!

Ribbon cutting of the Cohen Family Wellness Center in Woodside, Queens
Ribbon cutting of the Cohen Family Wellness Center in Woodside, Queens

From left to right: Queens Borough President Donovan Richards; New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan; Child Center of NY Vice Chair Samuel Freed; Executive Vice Chair Dick Jay; Board Chair Adam H. Schwartz; CEO Traci Donnelly; Julianna Sabra, Co-Head, Foundation and Community Engagement of the Amazin’ Mets Foundation; Alex Cohen (center, cutting the ribbon); Jeanne Melino, Executive Director of the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation; NYC Council Member Julie Won; Congresswoman Grace Meng; Child Center client Jonathan; Jane Son, Co-Head, Foundation and Community Engagement of the Amazin’ Mets Foundation; and Assemblymember Steven Raga. Photo credit: Michael Dorgan, amNewYork/QueensPost.

We cut the ribbon at the state-of-the-art Cohen Family Wellness Center (CFWC) in Woodside, Queens, this month, and we couldn’t be happier, prouder, or more grateful! Continue reading

Social Work Month 2023: Why I Am a Social Worker

By Anita Sanehi, LCSW
School-Based Clinical Coordinator

School-based Clinical Coordinator Anita Sanehi (right) with her client Kayla

As an eager teenager majoring in sociology and psychology, I began working as a youth counselor at the afterschool program in J.H.S 185.

Every stage of life has its own importance, and even though I was still a young adult, I believed in the powerful impact of childhood. Schools have a great opportunity to be a safe haven and steady support for many students. Sometimes students spend more time at school than with their families. Continue reading

Daniela’s Story

Daniela, a school-based mental health client at The Child Center of NY, with her therapist, Sarah Rashid 
Listen to the audio of the Q&A between Daniela and her therapist, Sarah Rashid, LMSW


Daniela is an 11th-grade student who goes to therapy at a Child Center wellness center in her school during lunchtime.

As a young child, Daniela experienced severe trauma. Returning to in-person school after remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic was a struggle because her extreme anxiety and ongoing hypervigilance—due to PTSD—prevented her from focusing in class. Thankfully, since mental health education for the entire school community—including teachers—is a core part of The Child Center’s school-based mental health work, one of Daniela’s teachers noticed she seemed overwhelmed and brought Daniela to our on-site wellness center.

Please tap on the photo above to hear Daniela speak in her own words about her experience in therapy at her school’s wellness center.

World Mental Health Day: Five Ways to Truly Make Mental Health a Priority

By Traci Donnelly
Chief Executive Officer

A young person in a therapy session at the child center residential treatment facility.The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted young people’s mental health—and adults’, too, if we’re being honest—so the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Day theme of making mental health and well-being for all a global priority could not have come at a better time.

If you are struggling with your mental health, you are not alone. Mental and public health professionals of all nations and cultures are reporting that their clients are feeling overwhelmed, uncertain, anxious, helpless, frustrated, stressed, and exhausted. Not surprisingly, these emotions are leading to a decrease in frustration tolerance and an increase in anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Continue reading


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