Women and Mental Health

From the desk of Kate Renna, Development & Marketing Specialist at Whitney Young Health.


Did you know 1 in 5 U.S. adults will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime?

May is Mental Health Awareness Month – a time to speak up about mental health being just as important as physical health as well as encouraging those who may suffer to speak out and share how they are feeling. Everyone is affected or impacted by mental illness through friends and family.

Maia Betts, LCSW-R, the Director of Mental Health at Whitney Young Health spoke about Women and Mental Health at recent Capital Region Chamber’s Women’s Business Council event, discussing how WYH is taking measures to ensure our female patients are receiving the helpful mental health care they need.

“Whitney Young Health offers integrated healthcare to address patients’ behavioral health and physical health care needs. Over the past two years the medical and behavioral health departments have collaborated to implement evidenced based strategies to provide whole person healthcare.  This innovative approach to integrated healthcare reduces preventable hospital visits, overall healthcare costs and leads to greater patient satisfaction.  At Whitney Young Health, behavioral health services are co-located with primary care are at all health centers.


Maia Betts, at the Women and Mental Health at recent Women’s Business Council event

Integrated care at Whitney Young Health means that patients are screened for depression during their medical visits, along with risk for alcohol/drug/tobacco use.  Depression in adults can lead to significant physical health problems, particularly if untreated. One in eight women can experience some form of depression during their lifetime and occurs in different stages in a woman’s life from pregnancy to menopause and beyond.

Additionally, women experience depression about twice the rate of men.  Yet, it is not a “normal” part of being a woman.  Less than half of women seek treatment because they feel ashamed to discuss their depression. And, evidence suggests that women are more prone to experience anxiety and physical health complaints related to their depression.

A model of integrated healthcare leads to a decreased rate of depression amongst its patients and lower health care costs. Moving fragmented care to integrated care treats the whole person – mind and body.”

For more information on women and some of the warning signs you may see regarding mental health, head over the National Institute of Mental Health.

Spring Cleaning for a Hectic Life


It’s Spring already. Well, this year escalated quickly.

They say time moves faster the older we get, but maybe it’s just life that moves faster. We all get so busy with work, school, family and other commitments that days become a blur, we’re exhausted and left wondering; “How did this happen?”. Again.

Everyone has had the experience of trying to do too much at once. While women haven’t cornered the market on over-achieving we do seem to be the gender who’ve turned it into an Olympic sport.

But as we begin our annual Spring cleaning rituals, purging our homes of the inevitable disarray that magically occurs when the thermostat drops, why not do the same for our lives?

It feels harder than organizing the family junk drawer, but we all have time-sucking life-clutter that we can afford to ditch.

Unfulfilling Relationships

Every human connection we have constitutes a relationship of some sort. Friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers and fellow volunteers all represent people to whom we’ve made commitments. But how many of them are meaningful? How many do we do we truly enjoy?

A Cornell study, found that out of 2,000 people surveyed, 66% stated that they had one or two people with whom they had discussed “important matters” in the last 6 months.  On average, participants had 2.03 confidantes. We need these friends. Friendships can actually keep us healthier. But at a certain point we need to step back and consider what’s real, and which ones are we hanging onto like an old pair of pants that we swear we’ll wear again someday.

The harsh truth is, some of our relationships may be bringing us down. Unhappy friends can decrease our happiness by 7%. That doesn’t mean we should  bail on the friends who are going through a tough time or the friends struggling with depression or other health issues. Support during hardship is a critical role of a friend. This is about those perpetually unhappy friends. The ones who are never satisfied and always have something to complain about.

We all know someone, an old friend or a coworker that we’ve been propping up. There’s a time where we have to stop taking responsibility for people that we like or want to like or used  to like. When it comes to relationships sometimes sucking it up is easy. It’s harder, but healthier, to be objective about real value added. When we release these relationships from our lives we free ourselves up to spend time on things we actually enjoy, or to put more time in into the relationships that really matter.

Reducing Obligations

Even with a few less friends in our lives, we may still have a calendar full of obligations. Show of hands, how many of us have said “yes” to doing something we knew we didn’t really have time for? It’s OK, put your hand down. It happens to all of us.  

“Can you bake cupcakes for the bake sale?”
“Can you squeeze in that report by Friday?”
“Can you work the 50/50 raffle this Weekend?

“Sure, I can do that”

We all agree to do things we don’t want to for various reasons. Feeling guilty for saying “no”. Feeling like we should be able to make time for what is being asked. Feeling like declining a request is somehow admitting failure or ineptitude. We all have triggers that lead us us to over-committing.

There are great reasons in life to say “yes”, like learning, love and adventure. We should say “yes” to the opportunities that come into our lives that will lead to enrichment and new experiences.

But should we say “yes” every time we’re asked for something?


We have a right, even an obligation, to set personal limits and boundaries on our time and energies. You can’t possibly give your best to anything when you’re giving a little of yourself to everything. Especially when you’re giving none of it to yourself.

So look at your day, week, month and find something that you’re dreading. Something you could live without. Even if you can’t wriggle out of it this time, use that task as your “red flag” of sorts. What kind of commitment is it? Why is it stressing you out?

Identify those characteristics so you can spot the next one when it comes along. Amp up your positive self-talk, remind yourself you have nothing to prove and if necessary, practice saying a polite, “no’” in the mirror.  This spring, throw out a compulsive need to please along with the space heater that stopped working in January.

Shaking Bad Habits.

Believe it or not, saying “yes” too much is a bad habit. But there are others that are sapping our time. In fact anything we’ve gotten “used to” that is undercutting our efficiency is bad habit.

These take on all shapes and sizes and can affect our health and happiness. Things like not getting enough sleep, skipping exercise and convenience based diets that offer little nutritional value all constitute bad habits that can leave you run down.

We also tend to have an unhealthy attachment to our electronic devices that could use a little pruning. A Neilsen Study reported that US adults spend over 10 hours a day looking screens, between phones, computers, televisions and similar technology.

Think about that. That’s 41% of your day. If you deduct 8 hours for sleep that goes up to 62%. Then factor in that the average US commute time is 25.4 minutes. That means another one of our few, non-device dedicated, hours is spent looking through a windshield.

Even if you don’t believe you’re one of the worst offenders, think about that friend who couldn’t stop texting or checking their email during your last brunch? Side note, see unfulfilling relationships.

Just by consciously reducing your screen time by 15% it would put 90 minutes back in your day. What would you do with an extra hour and a half? Take a walk? Read? Catch up with a real friend? Make some healthy plan-ahead lunches? SLEEP!?

We could all benefit from fewer Top 10 lists, Facebook updates, Netflix shows… pick your poison.

It seems like being tuned in to all things, all the time, has become a social imperative. But a digital disconnect may be in order. Try saying “no” to being reachable at all times or being caught up on the latest TV show that everyone is talking about. Really, it’s all just more clutter that needs to go along with the chairs in the basement your great aunt gave you when you moved in five years ago.

person-looking-searching-cleanThere’s no time like Spring to unburden yourself of things you no longer need. With the reemergence of the sun and the color green we all find ourselves a little inspired to seek a “fresh start”. This year, make yours more about your life than your closets. Try throwing out your draining relationships, unpleasant obligations and bad habits. You don’t need them and nothing feels quite as good as getting rid of old junk. And OK, clean out your closets too.


The Changing Face of the Workplace – Part Three

Please note: this blog post is part three of a three part series. Read the first post on what it’s like bringing my baby to work with me here and the second post on starting your own business and working from home here.

Emma Willard 4-19-10-290_0
Emma Willard School – 285 Pawling Avenue, Troy, NY

Still pondering what it means to create and work in a nontraditional workplace, I reached out to, Julie Clancy, Head of Admissions at Emma Willard. Julie is an amazing YWCA-GCR board member, one of the smartest people I know, and by far the most organized. Emma Willard is uniquely situated as not only working to provide a flexible, progressive work environment for its employees, but also is helping to educate and prepare the next generation of women for their careers. In today’s global world, schools are preparing children for jobs that do not yet exist.

Julie says she see students preferring versatile workplaces, and more so than ever, employees need flexibility in what defines “office” and what defines “workday.” She also sees a trend with more and more organizations and companies recruiting candidates who can work remotely; who can join a meeting virtually; who can keep deadlines; and who can keep their own schedule all the while being productive. This saves companies money (less office-space) and these companies are finding their employees are happier, more productive, and more accessible.

Julie believes that skill sets are ever-changing, yet strong communication skills will always be the hallmark of a highly competitive candidate. That means speaking, digesting information, and responding articulately.

“We live in a world that is deeply inter-connected, so relationship cultivation and management is key. The workforce also needs to be prepared for jobs and careers that are cross-disciplinary, otherwise known as “wearing multiple hats.” Very few jobs exist in silos, so the workforce needs to be dynamic, brave, and nimble,” says Julie. These are some of the skills Emma Willard works to develop in their students.

When asked how Emma Willard is helping to prepare its students for the workplace of the future, Julie says,

“You can’t be what you can’t see. At Emma, we consistently expose our girls to examples, representations, and experiences that showcase what is possible. We cannot know what the workforce will look like in 20 years, let alone 40 years, but to leave Emma with a toolbox of the essential skills highlighted above, plus self-awareness, curiousness, and drive, these girls are able to see what kinds of life-paths are very possible. Also important to keep in mind is that humans are living longer than ever now and are staying in the workforce well into their 70s and 80s. This means that people are having multiple careers, multiple chapters of their lives, and even more experience under their belts. It is exciting to know that at 50 years young, one might embark on a new job opportunity and stretch themselves in ways that hadn’t happened in the first 25-30 years of working.”

Julie thinks one of the biggest challenges her students will face in these nontraditional settings is fear of the unknown, but she believes there are several tools that are hugely helpful in understanding unconventional or new experiences.

“First, of course, is an open mind. Soak in all that is happening; be sponge-like. Then, ask questions, and let them bubble up from a curious place instead of a place of judgment or fear. Consider asking your questions based on what you are observing- as if you are a journalist. Be ready to change course several times as you find your way. I also think everyone needs to be prepared to put on overalls from time to time and do the heavy lifting. Organizations are multi-layered and rely on the full participation of all employees to get small and big projects done well. Lastly, it’s important to be ready to feel very invested in your work. Career and work should be energizing and should light up the brain.”

As the above examples illustrated, we are all trying to Lean In in our own ways – trying to find that delicate work-life balance. Yet, for many of us the boundaries that used to exist between home, office, passion-projects, co-workers and friends aren’t as relevant anymore. And in workplaces where those formal barriers do exist, many of us are finding they no longer work for us. I think what’s important is to identify your priorities, whether that’s job stability, compensation, flexibility, etc. Once we know what’s important to us and our motivations, it can be easier to find a workplace that fits our needs. Many people ask me how I found a job that allows me to bring my baby to work, right at the exact time I needed it. I didn’t know an environment like that existed, but I did know that in order for a position to be right for me, it would have to allow for an extreme amount of flexibility. Knowing what I wanted (and more importantly what I didn’t) allowed me to focus my job search and to know when I had found the right place. But, as Julie tells us, it’s not just about finding the right fit for you, you have to possess the skills necessary to succeed in these new nontraditional workplaces.


Success is a Mindset

Attitude is everything. We’ve all heard the phrase “fake it ‘til you make it” and “perception is reality”. Sometimes having confidence in ourselves is the biggest obstacle we have in achieving either professional or personal success.

I’ve always been a strong believer in the book called The Secret. It details the connection between the law of attraction and positivity. I’ve recited my positive mantras, sent them out into the universe, and created more than my fair share of vision boards to help me accomplish my goals in life. I remember almost 5 years ago when I was at the point in my career when I was ready for the next step, the new challenge, and I put out into the universe that I wanted to be an Executive Director of a non-profit organization that I was passionate about. I stumbled across the job posting for Executive Director of Girls Inc, mission statement – to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. The universe had listened and sent me what I asked for. But I almost didn’t apply. I was counting myself out, like we all too often do. I was 30 years old (who would hire a 30 year old to run a non-profit?!) and I had never been an Executive Director before. My attitude was not confident, and was certainly not going to “sell me” to get the job. My stepdad asked me if I had done most of the responsibilities listed in the job description and if I thought I could do the job. Of course I said, “yes”, so he said, “then apply for the job. Every Executive Director has to be an Executive Director for the first time at one point in their lives”.

My mindset shifted and my confidence grew. I didn’t focus on what I didn’t know 100%, but on my strengths. It just so happened that my strengths were exactly what the organization needed, and the other things could be learned. Having a clear plan in place for how to achieve goals was the second step in not only obtaining my dream job, but now continuing the success in the organization. Regardless if you are in for-profit or non-profit work, you need to have a sound plan. Goals should not be random numbers that could just set you and your team up for failure. Furthermore, you should surround yourself with a team that has the strengths and skills that you may not have. Too often people focus on their weaknesses vs. their strengths, instead of surrounding themselves with people who have those areas as their strengths.

When you put all of this together, a confident attitude, behavior that is systematic and intentional, and techniques that include your strengths and skill set, the possibilities are endless. I found this quote in an article written by James Alberson that sums it up perfectly, “The goals become your destination, your plans the road map, and your daily activities is the car that gets you there. So where do you want to end up?”


Why WIC Matters


From the desk of Katie Palmer, Whitney Young Health’s WIC Program Manager

My name is Katie Palmer and I am the WIC Program Manager at Whitney Young Health. Our office is one of only three WIC agencies in Albany County, serving about 2,500 participants annually. We are located at WYH’s Albany Health Center, but we also accommodate our other non-Albany residents by having a satellite site at WYH’s Watervliet Health Center.

So what is WIC? WIC is a special, supplemental Nutrition program for women, infants and children (WIC) and is used as a short-term intervention program designed to influence lifetime nutrition and healthy behaviors in a targeted high risk population.  WIC serves pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women and infants and children up until age five.

Our program is so important because we help save lives and improve the health of nutritionally at-risk women, infants and children.  WIC is actually one of the United States’ most successful and cost-effective nutrition intervention programs. Since its beginning in 1974, the WIC Program has earned the reputation of being one of the most successful Federally funded nutrition programs in the United States. It has also been proven for every dollar spent on WIC over 3 dollars are saved in Medicaid cost. Some proven benefits of WIC are.

  • Improves the dietary intake of nutritionally at-risk children and infants which decreases the incidence of iron deficiency anemia which leads to improved intellectual development.
  • Children enrolled in WIC are more likely to have a regular source of medical care and have more up to date immunizations.
  • Improves the dietary intake of pregnant women which leads to improved weight gain, reduction of low birth weight babies, fetal deaths and infant moralities.
  • Families on WIC receive referrals to other human service agencies.

These families not only rely on WIC for the nutritional foods we provide, but also to help them navigate doctor’s appointments, immunizations, health insurance and over all safety.  Participants are often much more comfortable discussing sensitive issues with WIC staff rather than a doctor or case worker.  Participants know that they can discuss anything with WIC staff in compete confidence.  The WIC staff is diligent about making sure participants get and follow through with referrals to any services their family’s need.


Whitney Young Health’s WIC Staff

Our office is staffed by four qualified nutritionist, four Certified Lactation Consultants and one Registered Dietitian.  All of our services are “participant centered,” meaning we gear our services on what the needs of the participant are.  If we cannot help a family with something we will find someone who can.  The Whitney Young Health WIC staff are all very dedicated and passionate about helping our participants achieve a healthy safe life for their families!

7 Laws That Helped Women Make History in the Workforce

WBC event
Women’s Business Council- We are a force. 

As Women’s History month came to a close in March, I found this article on LinkedIn.  What caught my attention were the dates.  Take a quick look at the long history and recent history of the laws that have helped women in their fight for equality in the workplace.

  • Fair Labor Standard Act of 1938
  • The Equal Pay Act if 1963
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Action of 1978
  • The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993
  • Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994
  • The Affordable Care Act of 2010


om Spiggle, Principal at The Spiggle Law Firm
Published on March 31, 2017

The Changing Face of the Workplace – Part Two

Please note: this blog post is part two of a three part series. If you would like to read the first post on what it’s like bringing my baby to work with me, you can check it out here.

Richard Nacy Warner in his home office

Bringing your child into the office is just one way path towards a nontraditional workplace. Starting you own business or working independently is another option for people looking outside of the traditional workplace mold. Ten percent of all adults are self-employed, including four percent who own their own business. What’s really interesting is that if given the choice, fifty-seven percent of Americans would opt to work for themselves. I believe that self-employment, business ownership and consulting are going to continue to grow, especially with the millennial generation. My mentor, friend, and former boss, Richard Nacy Warner started his own consulting firm a few years ago, and I wanted to hear his take on this trend. He and I worked together at a local nonprofit more than five years ago. The organization does amazing work, but we both felt the traditional work culture did not fit our personal life.

“There was a mixture of several factors that caused me to seek out a nontraditional workplace arrangement, says Richard. “I’d wanted to work as a consultant for years, with the hope that I could focus on the aspects of development that most appealed to me; I’d moved from a five-minute commute to my office to a sixty-plus-minute commute and was growing increasingly disenchanted with the drive; the idea of working from home at the times when I felt most productive was a huge draw. I also felt the desire to control my own destiny for a bit – to put myself out there without a safety net and see if I could do it.”

Richard says that one of the biggest advantages is that “I can wake up early, brew coffee, and start working immediately in my pajamas.” He loves that he can get my work done and have the flexibility to break up his day as he chooses.

“Before I started working from home, I was afraid that I’d procrastinate or get easily distracted. That hasn’t been the case – I’m more productive and more efficient and I find that I can make better decisions because I’m working when my mind functions best. I find it very civilized: I manage my work, and my work no longer manages me. It allows me to have true work-life balance,” he says.

He says one of the biggest learning curve for him was learning to set limits. Early on he was tempted to look at himself as being available to clients 24-7, and that every single project had to be top priority (the most common drawback and challenge when working remotely). He found that was not sustainable, nor was it practical. He also finds himself missing an office atmosphere from time to time, But then he’ll get work done early on a Wednesday and go to a matinee and I’ll think,

“Yeah, this really isn’t so bad…”.

Richard enjoys the flexibility that starting his own business has allowed him and says he would enjoy working from home for the rest of his life.

“Even if I were to pursue an opportunity where I was once again an employee (as opposed to a consultant), I would only consider working for an organization or company that had a very liberal work-from-home policy, and flexible in-office hours. Being able to stop in the middle of the traditional work day to get in a workout or spend an hour pulling weeds is incredibly empowering, and allows me to reboot and revitalize – which makes me perform better in my work.”

Be sure to check out part three on the skills students need to learn today to succeed in the nontraditional workplaces of the future of this three part series which will be posted soon.