Dr Darlene Brown-Williams: Championing Mental Well-being for NYC Veterans and Their Families

Mental illness is real. And while we know of the strength and resilience of our military men and women, we also know that over 30% of active duty and reserve military personnel deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan experience a mental health condition that requires treatment. Nearly 730,000 soldiers experience post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression, but less than 50 percent of those afflicted receive the care that they need and deserve. Each day, approximately 20 veterans die from suicide.

Health, Healing, and Wholeness

The New York City Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) strives to eliminate the stigma of mental illness and equip our veterans and their families with the knowledge and resources to get help — the right help — that fits their needs. We’re currently preparing to launch VetsThriveNYC, DVS’s veteran-focused complement to the First Lady of New York City’s ThriveNYC mental health roadmap. Our team is working to ensure we have a comprehensive array of service providers and organizations ready and willing to provide the best clinical and holistic services to meet the mental and physical health needs of our veterans and their families.

NYC DVS staff pose for a quick group shot after presenting at the Veterans Mental Health Coalition. From L to R: Kwesi Douglas, Sr Whole Health Case Manager & Systems Specialist; Janice Cilento; Johanna Perez, Whole Health & Community Resilience Consortium Manager; Dr Darlene Brown-Williams, Assistant Commissioner for Whole Health & Community Resilience; Alexis Wichowski, DVS Press Secretary; Venkat Motupalli, DVS CIO; Dr Loree Sutton, DVS Commissioner

To accomplish this, we are cultivating existing relationships and establishing new connections to greatly expand the types of organizations that we work with. In addition to traditional service organizations — the VA and city, state and federal agencies — we’re also working with community groups, arts organizations, private companies, and a wide range of not-for-profit veteran service organizations. The diversity of our partners was evident at a recent community forum DVS hosted, with nearly 100 clinical and holistic care organizations in attendance. With events like these, DVS raises awareness about the importance of holistic care, as well as reaffirming our commitment to the well-being of our veterans and their caregivers — in mind, body, and spirit.

DVS Commissioner Loree Sutton speaks to representatives from nearly 100 clinical and holistic care organizations

Whole Health and Community Resilience (WHCR) Team

Our team takes pride in doing everything possible to ensure that NYC veterans have access to and knowledge of clinical and holistic mental and physical health resources to address the full impact of war. To do this, we work with veterans, their families, and caregivers; not only on addressing their physical health needs, but their mental and spiritual well-being as well. We know that while some veterans may need clinical support, all veterans need community support.

The WHCR team builds bridges so our veterans are connected in every way possible, to help them thrive and live purpose-driven lives. We partner with arts and cultural programs focused on veteran experiences, help veterans connect with their peers, and connect them to holistic services in the communities in which they live, work, and play.

The Whole Health & Community Resilience staff. From L to R: Johanna Perez, Whole Health & Community Resilience Consortium Manager; Kwesi Douglas, Sr Whole Health Case Manager & Systems Specialist; Dr Darlene Brown-Williams, Assistant Commissioner for Whole Health & Community Resilience; Gabe Ramos, Monique Rada, Whole Health Coordinators

Our goal at DVS is to match veterans with not just services, but with opportunities to connect, to heal, to grow, and to thrive. We are focused on caring for the whole veteran at every stage of life and with any degree of need. I’m proud to lead a team of confident, diligent veterans of service — military and civilian — who want the best for New York City veterans and their families. We proudly devote ourselves to improving the lives of each and every veteran in New York City, to their families, and to their communities — today, and every day.

As DVS employees under the leadership of Commissioner Loree Sutton, we know that our mission is to stop at nothing to do as much as possible for the veterans we serve.

Connect with us at info@veterans.nyc.gov, and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @NYCVeterans and visit our website at www.nyc.gov/vets.


Dr Darlene Brown-Williams is the Assistant Commissioner for Whole Health & Community Resilience at the New York City Department of Veterans’ Services

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