Program Aims to Help Young Adults with Mental Illness Live Productive, Normal Lives

As the de Blasio administration prepares to bolster city mental health services, a new program already in operation is promising to help young adults with serious mental illness live productive, normal lives.

College is a time of self-discovery, learning and having fun. But for Shannon Pagdon, trying to balance it all with a recent diagnosis of schizophrenia made this exciting time terrifying.

"It was just very stressful and anxiety-provoking," Pagdon says. "I was worried about making friends and having to tell them this, and I was just worried what they would think."

Pagdon dropped out freshman year and moved to New York to be with her father. She knew she would return to school but would need help doing so. That's when she found the new college re-entry program at Fountain House.

"There's really a need because colleges and universities don't necessarily have the resources on campus to help students, and so when students have to take a leave, they don't really have any place to go," says Jason Bowman, director of Fountain House's College Re-Entry Program.

Fountain House has been a leader for 65 years, helping people with serious mental illness to transition from clinical treatment to normal life. Now, they're honing in on helping college kids in the early stages of their mental illness.

"In this program, we hope to address early onset of mental illness earlier to help young adults really understand that this is not the end of their life," Bowman says.

The students are taught about healthy eating and cooking, ways to relieve stress and how to improve study habits.

The 15-week program costs $10,000, but scholarships are available.

Pagdon says she's a different woman now because of it.

"That was really groundbreaking for me, was being around people who had been through the same thing," she says. "I would say that a lot of the stuff that really helped me was stress-relieving. Just kind of how to cope with anxiety. I really have trouble taking tests."

Pagdon says at times, she still hears voices and deals with depression, but with medication and coping tools, she's doing pretty well and is back in school.

As Fountain House works to grow its program, the state is expanding its efforts to help people experiencing their first episode of psychosis. Erin Billups will have more on that in her next report.

Charter Spectrum customers get full access
to all our video, including our live stream.
 

Tune to Spectrum News NY1 on TV, online, or on Local On Demand Channel 1020 for:

Road to City Hall, Mon.-Fri. at 7pm and 10pm
In Focus with Cheryl Wills, Sun. at 10:30am & 3:30pm
• On Stage, Sat.-Sun. 9:30am & 7:30pm + Tues. 12:30am
Sports on 1, nightly at 11:35pm and 4am