Mental Health, Mental Illness, on Block Island

advocating for services and support for those who are ill and education for mental health to all on Block Island

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Articles of Interest – 1

Please let us know the URL to any websites/articles/blogs/stories/videos/books etc you think visitors would find interesting or useful. A brief review of what the contribution is about would be useful too. We will add a post – others are found by scrolling down. Hopefully this will grow into a resource for us all.

However, NAMI BI cannot monitor all the information on other sites and we are not responsible for it. Please let us know if any link found here seems inappropriate or unhelpful.

Mental Illness is the cinderella of Health Services. In the TED video below, Thomas Insel shows that much is still to be learned. We do however know that recovery is possible, but that too frequently stigma and silence surround sufferers and their families. This page is for sharing information and sources of information.

Our first collection –

NAMI The home site of National Alliance on Mental Illness – a huge resource

NAMI Rhode Island Local information – happenings in Rhode Island, other affiliate organizations

Time to Change A UK site aiming to reduce stigma and increase involvement with lots of information, personal stories and good ideas, from the charities Mind and Rethink Mental illness

Inside the Brain A blog with regular updates on neuroscience research

Alive Inside – a trailer to a film about the effect of music


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Share Reading / Articles of Interest

Please let us know the URL to any websites/articles/blogs/stories/videos/books etc you think visitors would find interesting or useful. A brief review of what the contribution is about would be useful too. We will add a post – others are found by scrolling down. Hopefully this will grow into a resource for us all.

However, NAMI BI cannot monitor all the information on other sites and we are not responsible for it. Please let us know if any link found here seems inappropriate or unhelpful.

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Activities – overview at spring 2015

Overview Spring 2015: We have been able to accomplish several significant things: both the provision of mental health services on the island, and education and support programs for the community.

Mental health services currently available through NAMI BI:

A telemedicine service is provided by psychiatrist resident doctors from Butler Hospital and the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. This is a free service. The program started as an experiment and has been maintained by Butler Hospital and the Alpert Medical School and NAMI BI, growing into a viable and meaningful resource for those using the service.

[From Butler Hospital Behavioral Health Update, Summer 2014: “Butler Hospital and the Alpert Medical School of Brown University are using telemedicine to provide residents of Block Island access to high-quality mental health care without having to commute off-island to receive it. The program uses innovative software combined with high-density webcams to enable patients and doctors to see and talk to each other clearly.”]

A counselor from South Shore Center (The Community Health Center in Wakefield) comes to the island every two weeks. This service accepts insurance including Medicaid and serves at least as many clients as the telemedicine program. It reaches a somewhat different client group (family support, etc) as well as being used by some who also use the telemedicine service.

To arrange appointments or discuss services, phone the Case Manager, Tracy Fredericks [CSP certified], 207 229 6349.

We also hope to begin a family support group. Please ask about this so that possible times can be arranged.

Education and support to the community through voluntary effort:

There is good co-operation with other island groups, in particular with Block Island Health Service, The Island Free Library, The School Improvement Team, The Wellness Coalition, and the Block Island Times, sharing information and presentation of programs. From May to November monthly public programs on mental health issues have been offered, mostly at The Island Free Library.

These dealt with a variety of subjects, such as the integration of primary care and mental health care, parent-child attachment, different kinds of therapy, emotional education and prejudice, understanding depression. Articles in The Block Island Times increased the impact. All speakers gave their services voluntarily.

And of course we need help to accomplish these things, so we raise funds, stuff envelopes, make contact with interested individuals. We have needs too. Can you help?

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The first ever Summer Series


IMG_6698The first ever summer series is over.

As this is the first time that Wellness has engaged with a summer program, we would love feedback, suggestions and comments – scroll down or use contact. Also if you have photos, send them in.

Tyler Ferdinand was hired to assist the Wellness coordinator Jill Seppa with the goal of providing inspiring activities when parents are busiest and tourists are at a height. The series was open to all school age young people here, both island residents and visitors. It was hoped that interaction between Island and mainland kids would increase.

There were 7 events:

HeartSpace Driftwood Art Project at capacity, 22 kids varying in age from 8 to 16, 3 chaperones, about 50% Island kids and 50% Visiting Children. The Wellness Coalition provided snacks. Paige and Felicia were a pleasure to work with and created a nice environment for the kids to express themselves creatively.

Teen Dance at Town Beach Pavilion 75 children, ages of 12-17, 8 chaperones and DJ. Kids signed in with a parent contact info upon entering and dance rules were posted.Very successful, though few island kids attended.

Transition to College Program featuring Dean of Academic Excellence, Laurie Hazard 10 parents attended the adult event, 3 kids attended the kids event. The quality of the program was informative, helpful and clear.

Dinner & Games at BIMI  28 children attended, 5 chaperones, a healthy dinner catered by Los Gataitos plus games such as volleyball tournament, twister, jenga, face painting, bean bag toss, music and the Block Island Drummers.

Day on the Water with Matt Bellace 22 kids attended the kayaking and paddleboarding and dinner. Jill cooked a healthy dinner of grilled chicken, grilled vegetables, garlic bread, spaghetti and meatballs,salad, pasta and watermelon. The meal was completely finished. The kids who were there really interacted with Matt Bellace who got in depth during dinner about addiction, the underlying causes and symptoms and finding your natural highs.

Summer Homework Help Sessions

Community Bon Fire; 55 attendees mixed between kids, teens and families.

BIWC worked in collaboration with the following groups and businesses and thanks them for their support.

Block Island Maritime institute, Ocean Adventures, Pond & Beyond, Los Gataitos, Harbor Church, Heartspace

O’Toole & Parr [hired to create advertisements for the events].

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Talks 2014

2014 Summer Program of talks:

In past years we have offered a variety of talks and discussion groups. These public programs have been on neuroscience, depression, bipolar illness, attachment and parenting, obsessive-compulsive disorder, addiction, emotional education, the roots of prejudice, an overview of psychotherapy, and the integration of primary care and mental health care.

We also sponsored “Mental Health First Aid” a twelve hour class on how to respond to a person in crisis.

In 2014 the program began by observing May as Mental Health Month. Common Ground Coffeehouse hosted a reading called “The Poetry of Mental Illness”. Among those presenting were Lisa Starr (former state Poet Laureate), Nancy Greenaway, Jen Lighty, Eileen Miller, and Steve Hollaway. Others read including Socha Cohen, Patrick Tengwall, and Adam Dydak. This event began an ongoing series – the 2014 NAMI Block Island Summer Program – flyers posted all around the island to bring awareness and begin reducing the stigma of mental illness – as well as advertise the talks.


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5th Grade Pizza Party

On Friday, June 12th, Jill coordinated with the school to give the Fifth Grade students a Pizza Party. As well as having fun they showed her the posters they had made of their “Natural Highs“. And of course were further introduced to the Wellness Coalition, as when they are in 6th Grade they will take part in the “Roots” program. Thanks Wellness for the pizza and thanks everyone who joined in!


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Give Me Five – RI Teen Film


The Wellness coalition was pleased to support Block Island students who attended the Give Me 5 awards presentation in East Greenwich. Also thanks to the parent chaperones who accompanied them.


This is the second year that Block island students have enjoyed making five minute films through the RI Teen Film Give Me 5 program. Many thanks to Andre Boudreau for his work and enthusiasm in getting them to it.

All of this years five minute films can be seen here – there are 11 of them.

See how many of our BI kids you recognize !

This is a great program – so much to experience and learn.

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Natural Highs: Matt Bellace event

Matt Bellace, a psychologist, writer and comedian, says he is a clinical neuropsychologist who’s able to laugh at himself. On 15th April the Wellness Coalition and the BI school sponsored his visit here where he made separate presentations to high school and middle school students, and to parents teachers and community members. The Block Island Times reported on his visit here.

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Legalisation of Marijuana, or not?

This post is the personal opinion of Elspeth Crawford. The Wellness coalition encourages personal opinion and links to other sites, to enable open discussion, but it does not endorse nor take responsibility for such opinions and information on other sites. Information that the Wellness Coalition does believe to be accurate is given on our website under “What drugs and Alcohol Do

Two recent events brought the issue of “Legalization of Marijuana” back to my attention.

I’ll declare my position right here – I would like to see not just marijuana, but all drugs, legalized, with licensing, age limits, etc. drawn up according to best current knowledge of their effects. I want to see criminalization of use stopped (though not criminalization of supply outside whatever the licenses deem lawful) because criminalization also ruins lives.

But, the recent events made me look again. To say “which is worse, criminalization or marijuana use?” is a stupid question – I do not want young people using marijuana, nor do I want young people entering the criminal justice system.

First event – communication from other coalition members that “Portsmouth opposes legalization of recreational marijuana“.

Second event – presentation at Block Island School by psychologist/comedian Matt Bellace on”Natural Highs”. This presentation is very much in line with “The Wellness Coalition” view that the best prevention is a combination of enabling young people to find ways to live well, and at the same time giving them the information about the effects of drugs and alcohol. As every young person will do, they will then make their own choice. However,  Bellace’s presentation included a graph that showed use of marijuana had increased in those states where legalization had passed.

Should I rethink?

I searched a lot more. I do not want young people living in a culture where marijuana use is normalized, “the everyone tries it, its pretty harmless, it is good for stress” sort of culture that completely ignores the science that Marijuana use is HARMFUL in many many ways. [There are lots of other ways to tackle stress, many much more lasting than the short-term false ‘relax’ of marijuana.]

However – look at what Portugal decided to do – Portugal decriminalised the possession of all drugs for personal use in 2001, and there now exists a significant body of evidence on the positive outcomes following the move. But, they also complemented the policy of decriminalisation by allocating greater resources across the drugs field, expanding and improving prevention, treatment, harm reduction and social reintegration programmes. The introduction of these measures coincided with an expansion of the Portuguese welfare state, which included a guaranteed minimum income. While decriminalisation played an important role, it is likely that the positive outcomes described would not have been achieved without these wider health and social reforms. [my editing and italics]

If only… here…

In the meantime, hoping for “greater resources” in RI or USA, I will carry on with Wellness.

I have not changed my view, I would like to see all drug use decriminalised. I would also like everyone to know that Marijuana use, especially to young people, is harmful to being well.

We are very fortunate that there are many other ways here on Block Island to get ‘high’ naturally. Bellace affirmed this from his knowledge of neuroscience, clinical psychology and sociology.

Related info on states that legalized

It would seem that Wellness is definitely the way to go, and society and government wellness is part of that – see also the Rat Park Experiment.


Our current need on Block Island


In fall 2020, NAMI BI sent the letter below to an address list of Block Island people, both year round and those who are also resident elsewhere.

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for millions of Americans affected by mental illness. As part of an alliance of over 600 state and local affiliates, NAMI-Block Island, works to ensure that every person on Block Island has access to the services they need and is surrounded by a community that cares.

This past year has been very challenging for our organization as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused us, like many non-profits,  to cancel all of our in person programs- monthly family support groups, the summer programs at the library, the May mental health conference, and the August Fun Run event with the Medical Center. However, we are regularly providing information via the Block Island Bulletin Board on mental health resources available locally, state-wide, and nationally. We have also distributed a informational post card which was sent to all Block Island Post Office box holders and given to the police department for appropriate use. Online education programs from NAMI are abundant and we have encouraged our citizens to access these programs.

Tragically, our community suffered another suicide a few months ago. We wish that mental illness and distress did not exist among us but that is not our reality. The fear of illness and economic stress cause individuals and the community to suffer. NAMI-BI continues to explore creative ways we can bring information and resources to our island and enable others to bring or find help when it is needed.

We will continue to foster our belief that the community at large, and more specifically, each of its citizens, has a critical role to play in addressing mental and behavioral health issues we all face. That principal guides our activities. 

Your contributions make our work possible and we are always grateful for your donations. NAMI-Block Island is a tax exempt non-profit organization and you can make a contribution online at our website,, or simply send a check to NAMI Block Island Inc., PO Box 1719, Block Island, RI 02807.


The NAMI Board,
President: Jim Hinthorn
Vice-President: Kristin Baumann
Treasurer: Pat Tengwall
Secretary: Elspeth Crawford
Directors: Beth Gaffett Tengwall, Gloria Redlich, Socha Cohen, Jill Seppa, Alison Warfel, Will Young, Tracy Fredericks (Medical Center Case manager, 207-229-6349.)

[Donations to NAMI Block Island, PO Box 1719, Employer ID Number B3-2915592]


However, many other kinds of help can be given, besides monetary contribution. More detail of our activities is available here, and if you are interested in what we do, please inquire from any Board Member, or come to a meeting, and offer your skills to the Board.

This page was first written in 2015, and although there has been progress, our ongoing needs remain much the same. The only regular psychiatric mental health service available on Block Island is that offered by telemedicine from Butler Hospital for adults, and the service for adolescents, children and families from Bradley Hospital. Emergency or more sporadic need to individuals who have not previously sought regular appointments are possible, depending on the point of access. This can come through the Block Island Medical Center (BIHS) or the Police Department as well as through the Case manager, Tracy Fredericks, and can involve anything from advice or support to necessary escort off the island. Visiting counselors can be available by negotiation – see services.

The island context also means there is variation in need depending on the time of year. The winter population of permanent residents is less than 1000 people. During the summer season, May – October, the need for services applies to island seasonal workers, as well as summer residents who return regularly each year. There are also visitors/tourists who might need a more temporary engagement with the program. Summer population estimate is about 10,000 people.

Mental illness suffers so much from silence and stigma, that many people do not realize how many individuals suffer and their families and friends absorb consequences. They keep quiet. Given Rhode Island statistics* and the number of people in the local population, as the services become better known, it would seem that the number of individuals using the service will continue to increase as they have done each year they have been offered. At one time in 2014, there was a waiting time of four weeks for a client needing a first appointment. Now, in 2016, the current operating process for all activities is only funded for the limited number of hours used by the Case Manager in organizing the once weekly telemedicine appointments. The hours for which the manager, Tracy Fredericks, is employed are being used to the maximum, and indeed beyond as she responds willingly to emergency, to enabling the finding of counseling help, and other issues that take more of her time. Extra time is not funded.

Educational meetings mostly take place during the summer season when it is hoped that a wider audience can be reached. The summer programs presented have been made possible by the generosity of the speakers who have given their time freely, and by the venue (Island Free Library) also free. Members of the NAMI BI Board give their time to organize the presentations. In the past, some possible speakers have had to refuse as travel and residence costs on the island could not be borne by either speaker or NAMI BI.

NAMI BI needs are threefold:

First the obvious one for any non-profit, we need donations in order to keep going. As described in more detail below, we want to offer more services and expand programs, both of which are indeed required. Any gift you make helps us continue to provide psychiatric services and support on Block Island. Donate to NAMI Block Island, PO Box 1719, BI RI 02807. All gifts are fully tax deductible.

Second, We work with volunteered time and effort. We deeply appreciate the partnerships of Butler Hospital, Bradley Hospital, and South Shore Center, the liaison with Block Island Health Services, the free venue for programs offered by the Island Free Library and the publicity from Block Island Times. Expenses are minimal. NAMI BI also aims to offer some events each year during May, which is Mental Health Month. These involve our time, and organization skills, and volunteers, of all kinds, for example offering child care so that parents can attend events. For as long as is necessary by COVID -19 restrictions, we, like many others, are working virtually through Zoom. 

For anyone wants to become involved and offer their time, as and when they can do so, there is no requirement for professional knowledge or past experience, just willingness. Please ask a Board Member and come along to a meeting.

Third, we  create community conversations on mental health, to offer these and to offer support groups for families. We work as closely as possible with many other groups on the island. There may be a need to undertake training, or, to bring facilitators to the island. We look forward to interest and collaboration in the two-way discussions that help all of us with these initiatives. We were part of the Care coalition that enabled the appointment of a part-time Case-worker, a coordinator of human services, to help those who need services of all kinds make contact with providers on the mainland.

Community opinion is valuable and experiences can be shared. 

NB Rhode Island reduced its spending on Mental Health in past years, not because of less need. We need political influence too. A side benefit of COVID-19 is that attention to Mental Health matters has become more visible and more important. However, that simply reflects that there is more need.

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Be Well Block Island


Block Island Wellness Coalition is a community group to enable all of us who live in or visit Block Island. We work to prevent substance and alcohol abuse, to educate concerning community health and we promote activities that create well-being.

Find out what we do, join in, offer your own thoughts, talents and experience.

Jump in and find out more


Explore the site via the menus above, the links at the side, or make contact.

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You tell us

Everyone in the Block Island community (residents and visitors) are welcome to offer posts to our blog. The blog space is here. Young people and volunteers who have taken part in activities can create reviews, offer suggestions, feedback, send in photos etc. Make contact –  become a ‘poster’ on this space. Click on titles below to read more and see photos.