Created in June, 2019 — Over 5,000 patients reached
June 13, 2022
Thank you for your interest in our program
The psych ward can be an unbearably lonely place. We’re alone with our own thoughts and reflections — relapses, struggles, disappointments, and hopelessness. I know. I’ve been there. I’ve suffered with severe bipolar I disorder with psychosis and with extended periods of suicidal depression for 20 years. Mental health crises involuntarily landed me in the psych ward three times. There are rarely get well wishes or flowers for the window ledges. Often, patients have no visitors at all. These were the lows of my struggle with mental illness. I felt locked up both emotionally and physically.
I am now happily living in recovery. Once I reached recovery, I very much wanted to share my hope that recovery is possible with those who are struggling as I once did. I wanted to make it easier for others to reach recovery. I also wanted to help others in our community to share their hope with their peers. Our community has a lot of hope, care, affection and love to share with each other and we do. We want to let patients in the psych ward know that they are not alone, they are not forgotten, that they are in our thoughts and hearts.
A greeting card with a heartfelt message is a simple yet very powerful way to connect with a patient to share a message of hope. I created our Psych Ward Greeting Cards program to do just that.
Since June 2019 until March 2020 (COVID’s start), twice monthly, I personally visited psychiatric units to share my lived experience of recovery and deliver donated greeting cards with words of heartfelt encouragement and treats like Hershey Kisses. I also made special visits on holidays — Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukkah, Valentine’s Day and Easter/Passover. I met patients everywhere accompanied by the caring hospital therapists I work with. We met them in the psychiatric emergency room, extended observation area, inpatient unit and outpatient units — young and old. I met with over 1,000 patients before COVID. We partner with two leading hospitals in New York City — Payne Whitney Clinic at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Lenox Hill Hospital. Since March 2020, I’ve been shipping monthly packages to New York-Presbyterian Westchester Behavioral Health Center in White Plains, NY and more recently, Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital.
Our card donors are extremely kind and generous. I’ve received dozens of card donations from individuals with heartfelt messages from across the country and abroad. Especially noteworthy, many of our card donors are living with mental illness and have also been hospitalized themselves — they share their messages of hope with those like them. We’ve also received amazing card donations from the members of a leading mental health non-profit in New York City, Fountain House. Several wonderful card designers have provided tremendous support by making large contributions. We’ve also received card donations from educational institutions and leading companies as part of their workplace mental health awareness initiatives.
Most important to me, patients clearly have been deeply moved by our cards. During my visits, the patients would read the card messages aloud, and it was not uncommon for many, including therapists and me, to be moved to tears. Patients were also making handmade cards and writing messages in cards and exchanging them with each other. It is one of the most moving experiences I have ever experienced. Our program has been very highly praised by the large community involved in making it possible.
This is truly an exemplary and extremely heartwarming example of the community spirit that is alive and well in our mental illness community and how we can and we do come together to support each other.
Way back when I started this program, I could have never imagined the beautiful, heartwarming support I have received. I had, in fact, planned to buy cards myself, but I have never had to. The response to my program was immediate and large. It resonated with so many people. So many people wanted to share a message they wished they had heard when they were struggling, to help lessen the struggle of others.
I feel deeply moved and touched to have inspired hope and boosted the spirits of many who are too often forgotten and to help so many others do so as well. I look forward to each and every visit, every shipment, every donation. I’ve loved them all. I may be supporting their recovery, but all of our collaborators and especially our patients are also helping me stay in recovery. They are also helping sustain the recovery of our many cards donors who are also living with mental illness themselves.
I hope you’ll join us by contributing to and partnering with our program. We welcome all contributions big and small, each and every one makes a difference, they all count. A heartfelt thanks to all of our supporters, especially our brave patients.
With my warmest regards, Katherine
A longer version of message we share with all patients: A Letter to Those Struggling with Mental Illness
Program Summary June, 2019 to June, 2022
A leading psychiatric outreach program that visits psychiatric patients to distribute donated greeting cards with recovery messages and to provide peer support. During COVID, greeting cards have been shipped to several hospitals.
Created and Managed by Katherine Ponte, mental health advocate, writer, entrepreneur, Wharton MBA, lawyer, and a Lecturer in Psychiatry, Program for Recovery and Community Health, School of Medicine, Yale University.
Program start: June, 2019
Patients reached: over 5,000 since June, 2019
Treats shared: over 50,000 Hershey Kisses
Hospital partners: 4
Hospital visits before COVID: nearly 20
Hospital shipments over: over 50
Individual card donations: over 400
Total cards donated estimated at: 10,000
Psychiatric Unit Patient and Staff Communities:
Donors, May 24, 2021
Coloring cards: designed by Patrick Hruby
Non-profit Collaboration with Fountain House, Silver Center, NY:
Other Non-profit Collaborations:
Heartwarming Letter from a Young Patient