We, at New Directions Support Group, know a lot about mental illness. A nonprofit organization, we’ve been around since 1986, or 34 years. Many of our “mentally ill” folks have had their work – both prose and poetry – published in prestigious literary journals.

One of the hallmarks of our group is we take joy in helping one another and the larger community.

Sandy advises, “Some people nowadays are waiting days to go to the ER even though they have serious symptoms of heart attack, stroke, appendicitis, diverticulitis, and so on. They delay going because they are afraid of catching COVID-19 there.

“Most hospitals have areas for COVID-19 patients, well-separated from areas for people experiencing other problems.”

Due to the Pandemic we are unable to meet in person at our two locations: Abington Presbyterian Church and Willow Grove Super Giant Store, on the second floor.

We stay in touch via News Alerts, telephone calls, and postcards.

Mark Amos, owner of Bux-Mont Stationers, printed up colorful cards that read “Yes I Can.” We print cheery messages to boost the morale of our members. These cards cost only 55 cents. How’s that, when stock holders’ costs go up and down like a yo-yo.

New Directions, which I founded after I was driven in a police car to Norristown State Hospital, for inappropriate behavior, has never faltered in our mission: Become the best you can be. This includes finding a good psychiatrist, getting psychotherapy, eating healthy meals, exercising and helping others.

Bipolar disorder – intense mood swings – bear a seemingly unalterable prejudice. But those of us in our group know how to take care of ourselves.

Becky was heart-broken when her “soulmate” broke up with her.

She teetered on wishing to take her own life, but talked to many friends, who convinced her “Life is worth living.”

She found a job working at an animal shelter with kittens.

What can you do to help others during this Pandemic?

Donate to food banks to help people survive.

Donate to music stations, whose music sustains us.

For young people, who cannot attend school, use social media tools to stay in touch.

Not having hugged my grandchildren in over two months, they will visit me soon in my back yard. Everyone will wear a mask. Grace, 10, will perform on her slide trombone, and Max, 8, will show me his new train tracks.

The children view it as an adventure.

These are precious days. We must not let the coronavirus deprive us of hope and optimism. Sure, it is hard. Sure, we must make sacrifices.

But this is the nature of human beings.


A former president of India writes, “When we tackle obstacles, we find hidden reserves of courage and resilience we did not know we had. And it is only when we are faced with failure do we realize that these resources were always there within us. We only need to find them and move on with our lives.” A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

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