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“A Path to Hope and Help,” DelVal hosts mental health forum


Bucks County leaders partnered with Delaware Valley University to host a mental health forum this month to unite and inform those seeking relief.

Recognizing the growing mental health epidemic and the rising number of residents seeking alleviation, DelVal’s English and Psychology departments organized the free public event, “Our Mental Health Crisis: A Path to Hope and Help,” that was held Oct. 5 at the college’s Life Sciences building auditorium.

Living with mental health issues is a strenuous burden, but finding the courage to advocate for oneself and seek help can be an even more challenging step in the journey.

Guest speakers and panel discussion participants promoted available services but also made sure to address barriers many experience to accessing care.

“Why did I have so much trouble getting help when I needed it? Stigma. It’s bad and a lot of that is internalized stigma too,” said keynote speaker Nicholas Emeigh.

He’s the director of outreach and development for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Bucks County. He also survived three suicide attempts.

“You wanna talk about the biggest form of stigma? Feeling so worthless that you’d rather be dead than live in this society, that is a huge stigma,” he said.

Emeigh shared his struggles to let the audience know what drew him back, what resources he wished he’d had or needed at the time, and the “power” of peer support.

“I should be in a lot of other places than speaking at DelVal tonight,” he said. “I could be in jail. I could be in a hospital somewhere and I really shouldn’t be alive, to be honest with you.”

When he was young, Emeigh’s educators noticed “something different” and sent him for testing. Along with anxiety, they also found him to have a higher intelligence quotient and placed him into the gifted program. But none of his mental health needs were addressed.

“And so disguised in this gifted program was this really anxious, depressed young man who would later go on to be diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder,” he explained.

In middle school, Emeigh used food to cope, which led to him gaining weight and getting excessively bullied. In high school he developed an eating disorder.

“The response to my eating disorder was positive, people started to like me and I started to have friends,” he said. “That is positive reinforcement for such a negative behavior.”

In college, drugs and alcohol became addictive coping mechanisms.

After school, while working in a high-pressure pharmaceutical industry job, Emeigh had a nervous breakdown. His mom, or “best friend,” died following a brain aneurysm.

Emeigh tried to commit suicide by overdosing on medication taken from his workplace. The company had him arrested.

He confessed, saying “There is something wrong with me, I don’t know what, I messed up and I need help.”

After a stint in jail, he was remanded to treatment that was ineffective. He had a second suicide attempt after being released and finally received mental health aid after being stabilized.

“I was in the hospital for the last time eight years ago in December,” after his third suicide attempt after his dad died, Emeigh shared, causing the crowd to erupt in applause with support.

Finding new motivation from his last hospital stay, Emeigh has been dedicating his life to others and shared how NAMI helped over 47,000 people last year.

Emeigh also sat on the panel that fielded questions and talked about everything from insurance and affordability and mental health in homelessness to addiction, stigma and how to be a supportive peer.

His co-panelists included Nicole Wolf, director of education and training at Lenape Valley Foundation; Cara Gadzinski, Bucks County human services co-responder; Nelson Whitney, the Falls Township police chief; Raymond McManamon, Bucks County’s forensic coordinator and emergency/court delegate who oversees crisis services and Adam Assoian, a licensed clinical psychologist and the owner and clinical director of Ally Psychological Services and Amy Tielemans, a Doylestown licensed therapist.

Wolf talked about the new behavioral health crisis care center in Bucks County, which is expected to open in late 2025. There, she said, patients can “walk in anytime to ask for help and we will connect you with any type of help that is you want and need.”

Sen. John Fetterman sent in a short video message addressing the crisis telling the audience, “There is a solution and you don’t have to continue to suffer.”

Area groups manned tables in the lobby offering information about help they provide. Those represented included the Bucks County Human Services, Lenape Valley Foundation, Wood Services, Airmid Wellness, The Liv Project, Tower Behavioral Health, NAMI, and Belmont Behavioral Health.

Services ranged from crisis response, peer support, mobile care, treatment facilities and outpatient options.

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