The ringing of a bell and the sound of people hitting the pavement could be heard in Binghamton Sunday as people came together to raise awareness about mental health disorders. Our Elyse Mickalonis was there and brings us more on the event and what it stands for.
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- "We’re commemorating what’s called the mental health bell. It was created early in the 1950s when the National Mental Health Association called asylums all over the country to turn in their shackles and chains they used to imprison patients with. They had them melted down and cast into a bell, which is now called the Bell of Hope,” said Bert Prohaska, Greater Binghamton Health Center Quality Management.
On Sunday, community members rang the bell from the old Binghamton State Hospital in honor of those who are mentally ill for the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier's third annual Bell of Hope 5K at the Greater Binghamton Health Center.
"When Isaac Perry designed the asylum back in 1858, there was a bell in one of the towers that was used to regulate patient life in the asylum. In 1954, those towers were removed, but fortunately, the bell was preserved in a structure which is in front of the old building,” said Prohaska.
Kathy Eckert, MHAST Children and Family Services Director, added, "There’s still a huge stigma associated with mental illness. This was our way of bring everybody together and the more that people are out in support of it and talking about it, the more it reduces the stigma."
Eckert says it's the only 5K of its kind in the area, bringing awareness to the fact that one in four people are affected by a mental health disorder and that 30,000 people die from suicide every year.
"It's just really important to know there is help in the community. If you're not feeling good, do not be afraid to seek out the services in your community,” said Eckert.
But services will soon be cut in the Southern Tier. The Greater Binghamton Health Center and Elmira Psychiatric Center are both set to close next July as the state plans on moving resources to Central and Western New York facilities.
"I think anytime you reduce mental health services in the community, it will have an impact,” said Eckert.
The exact impact is yet to be seen, but with services moving, it could prove to be more difficult for people to find the help they need, services that have come a long way over the years.
"Cast from shackles which bound them, this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness,” said Prohaska.