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Shining a light on mental health resources during an especially difficult year
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NOV. 18-25, 2020 VOLUME 29 + ISSUE 47 Editor-In-Chief LISA CUNNINGHAM Director of Advertising JASMINE HUGHES Director of Operations KEVIN SHEPHERD News Editor RYAN DETO Senior Writer AMANDA WALTZ Staff Writers HANNAH LYNN, JORDAN SNOWDEN Photographer/Videographer JARED WICKERHAM Editorial Designer ABBIE ADAMS Graphic Designers JOSIE NORTON, JEFF SCHRECKENGOST Senior Account Executive KAITLIN OLIVER Sales Representative ZACK DURKIN Operations Coordinator MAGGIE WEAVER Circulation Manager JEFF ENGBARTH Featured Contributors REGE BEHE, LYNN CULLEN, TERENEH IDIA, CHARLES ROSENBLUM Interns NARDOS HAILE, LAKE LEWIS, KYLIE THOMAS National Advertising Representative VMG ADVERTISING 1.888.278.9866 OR 1.212.475.2529 Publisher EAGLE MEDIA CORP. In memory of ALEX GORDON 1987-2020
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MEDI C A L MA RI JU A N A
thehealingcenterusa.com PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER NOVEMBER 18-25, 2020
Dedicated to our colleague and friend Alex Gordon
CP ILLUSTRATION: ABBIE ADAMS
Shining a light on mental health resources during an especially difficult year BY LISA CUNNINGHAM // LCUNNING@PGHCITYPAPER.COM
T’S BEEN ALMOST ﬁve weeks since our colleague and friend Alex
Gordon, Pittsburgh City Paper’s managing editor, died of suicide. Prior to his passing, we planned to focus the Health Issue on people’s well-being during this difﬁcult year. Now, we’ve shifted focus to mental health and suicide awareness, and dedicated the issue in his name. Alex was one of the many Americans furloughed this summer due to ﬁnancial reasons related to the pandemic. And just as job losses and furloughs can add to mental health distress, so can working during the pandemic. A behavioral health therapist shared with one of our reporters back in August that frontline workers are showing similar signs to 9/11 responders, with some therapists expecting damaging effects of working under the stressful conditions of the pandemic to remain with them for the rest of their careers. But frontline workers aren’t just nurses — they’re also grocery store cashiers, restaurant servers, ride-hail drivers, and yes, journalists, too. Just last week, almost four weeks after Alex died, we learned of the suicide of another reporter: Hannah Colton, a 29-year-old news director from New Mexico. Like Alex, her eulogy said she had been loved PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER by her colleagues, that she was open IS DONATING A PORTION about her depression, and that she had been eager to report on the pandemic, OF PROCEEDS FROM THIS WEEK’S ISSUE the election, and social injustice. In Pittsburgh, our reporting on the IN ALEX GORDON’S Black Lives Matter movement has been NAME TO LOCAL MENTAL constant in the wake of the killings HEALTH ORGANIZATION of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, STEEL SMILING. especially following last year’s report that named the city one of the worst places in America for Black women. (For a personal essay from a local Black woman who speaks openly about her own struggles with depression, see page 16.) The city also has a long history of police brutality and racism, which has led to damaging effects on the mental health of Black people in our region. For these reasons, Pittsburgh City Paper is donating a portion of proceeds from this week’s Health Issue in Alex’s name to the local mental health organization Steel Smiling, which aims to “bridge the gap between Black people and mental health support through education, advocacy, and awareness.” (You can read more about them in our article on suicide prevention on page 6.) Alex was always very open with us about his struggles with depression, and he was also very open about the importance of counseling. (Read our tips for ﬁnding a good therapist on page 14.) His death came very unexpectedly, and we are still in a tremendous amount of pain from his loss. This issue was very difﬁcult for us to put together, but as you’ll read in our story, “How to grieve in a pandemic” on page 12, we learned there’s a term called “meaning-making,” which happens when you work through something incredibly awful, and are able to turn it into something meaningful. We hope, then, that this issue is something meaningful and that it gives everyone out there a reason to keep going. And going. And going.
PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER NOVEMBER 18-25, 2020
CP PHOTO: LAKE LEWIS
Members of Steel Smiling, which aims to “bridge the gap between Black people and mental health support through education, advocacy and awareness”
THE BIG STORY
SUICIDE PREVENTION How to help those contemplating suicide and keep them safe BY RYAN DETO // RYANDETO@PGHCITYPAPER.COM
ENTAL HEALTH OFFICIALS are
understandably worried about how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting American’s mental health. During a week in late June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the virus had already caused a higher number of mental health conditions in U.S. adults. Experts predicted that the pandemic would exacerbate mental health problems and eventually lead to more suicides. School closures, stay-at-home
orders, loss of employment, and loss of income all contributed to the erosion of social networks. According to the CDC, these factors are contributing to more suicides nationally. With COVID cases rising again, and an election that won’t seem to end, those stressors seem to be continuing at pace. But there are steps that everyone can take to combat this crisis. It is not hopeless. Pittsburgh City Paper spoke to local organizations that provide suicide-prevention resources and support, and they both offered advice on how to detect
if someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts, how to help address and work through those thoughts, and how to maintain support for people so they can continue their positive mental health.
How to spot warning signs JESSE PUTKOSKI IS THE Western Pennsylvania director
for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a nationwide nonproﬁt that raises funds for scientiﬁc research and provides support for those who have lost loved ones to suicide.
HEALING PODCAST BY RYAN DETO RYANDETO@PGHCITYPAPER.COM
STEEL SMILING steelsmilingpgh.org
AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR SUICIDE FOUNDATION, WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA CHAPTER
On Tilt co-hosts Julius Boatwright and Dannielle Brown
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE 1-800-273-8255
Putkoski says AFSP suggests looking for three different factors in people who might be considering suicide: talk, behavior, and mood. Someone talking about wanting to commit suicide is the most obvious sign, but Putkoski says that talking about being a burden on people around them can also be a sign that they are struggling. Some behaviors that people should monitor are issues with sleep, sudden withdrawal from activities, and the overuse of alcohol and drugs, says Putkoski. This can also mean asking about noticeable differences in people’s social media use. People setting up ways or methods in which to harm themselves is also something to look out for. And overall, Putkoski advises people to generally monitor people’s behavior and moods to see if they are consistently acting out of the ordinary. “Paying attention to differences in people’s mood is important,” says Putkoski. “Anything dissimilar from their normal behavior. Even unexplained happiness, it can indicate they are going to act on a plan.” Some might think this comes across as paranoid, but it’s not as if noticing how people are acting differently is the same as policing a loved one’s behavior.
And opening up a dialogue about these warning signs doesn’t have negative consequences, as some people might assume. “Talk to them, show them that you care,” says Putkoski. “You can ask them directly [about suicide]. Studies show that asking people who aren’t thinking about it is not going to put the idea into their heads.” Julius Boatwright, founder and chief executive ofﬁcer of local mental health organization Steel Smiling, says crises can look different for different people. And that understanding the disparate ways people are in pain can help identify the ways loved ones can help. “We might think a crisis is always yelling and screaming, and is visible,” says Boatwright. “But I like to think of the crisis spectrum.”
What to do when loved ones are contemplating suicide STEEL SMILING FOCUSES on education,
advocacy, and awareness of mental health, particularly within Pittsburgh’s Black community. Boatwright says acknowledging people’s suicidal thoughts is paramount in directing them to the help they need. “The ﬁrst thing that I always keep in mind, if and when someone says they
are thinking about suicide, is that we, the collective we, have to acknowledge that as being valid,” says Boatwright. Boatwright has dealt with his own suicidal thoughts. He says he still calls suicide hotlines maybe a few times a year, and recommends that for those in need. He says that receiving an authentication acknowledgement of those thoughts goes a long way. “For the times I have had my own suicidal thoughts, just that simple acknowledgement is big,” says Boatwright. “Someone sees me and hears me in this time of turmoil.” He says that sometimes acknowledgement from a family member or friend is enough to help start people on a path to better mental health, but also reminds people that there are some instances where deep issues and chemical imbalances are too severe and there might only be licensed and trained professionals who can help. Putkoski agrees that talking directly to people having suicidal thoughts is important, as is listening to them and not trying right away to ﬁx their concerns. Just listen. “Avoid minimizing their feelings. Avoid advice to ﬁx it,” says Putkoski. “They need to be heard, and they need to
Julius Boatwright the Black mental health support group Steel Smiling is optimistic about the state of Black mental health. He says that his organization has been growing over the last five years, and many clients are expressing excitement about seeking out mental health support, despite what was widely believed as an historical aversion to mental health treatment among Black people in America. “For a long time, we as a society, thought Black people have a stigma towards mental health, that Black people want to pray it away, but that is false,” says Boatwright. “I don’t know how that narrative got spread. They are confronting these challenges and wanting to heal.” To further spread this message and inform the Black community about mental health, 1Hood Media has recruited Boatwright for Facebook search a new podcast “1Hood Media” called On Tilt: The State of Black Mental Health and Policing in America. According to a press release, the podcast is meant to create a space for African Americans to share and heal, as well as spark conversations about healing, justice, and peace. Boatwright’s co-host on the podcast is mental health advocate Dannielle Brown, who has gained national attention for her protests against Duquesne University, demanding more information about the death of her son, Jaylen Brown. Recent podcasts have discussed the use of social workers as first responders to mental health crises, and how police involvement can still be problematic in those situations. The show tackles tough topics, but focuses on constructive methods to help the Black community heal. “Instead of shining a glaring spotlight solely on racial injustice across the country, the show will also help people embark on the journey toward better mental health and self-care, especially when participating in protests or experiencing excessive police force,” reads a press release. On Tilt is broadcast live on 1Hood Media’s Facebook page, where it can be accessed later as well. •
ON TILT: THE STATE OF BLACK MENTAL HEALTH AND POLICING IN AMERICA
CONTINUES ON PG. 8
PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER NOVEMBER 18-25, 2020
SUICIDE PREVENTION, CONTINUED FROM PG. 7
CP PHOTO: LAKE LEWIS
Julius Boatwright, founder and chief executive officer of Steel Smiling
be listened to.” But acknowledgement and listening is just a ﬁrst step. Boatwright says that putting together a crisis plan with the person struggling with mental health issues can be a powerful tool to use any time that person has suicidal thoughts again. These crisis plans should provide several different avenues for people to turn to when individuals are suffering from suicidal thoughts or loved ones notice that others might be contemplating suicide. Plans should be written down and shared with several people, but Boatwright says that those struggling with mental health should be in control of the crisis plan process. He says that might mean that individuals share parts of the plan with family, and other parts of the plan with friends. Plans can provide suggestions of who people can seek out when they are struggling. It might mean a therapist one time, or a crisis call line another time, or just a chat with a family member. Boatwright is very bullish on crisis plans and hopes they become a national movement to prevent suicides. (People can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 “TALK” or text 741-741.) “Crisis plans for everyone. This should be a thing that sweeps the country, where everyone makes a plan,” says Boatwright. Other actions people should
take when loved ones share suicidal thoughts include taking measures to remove or secure dangerous items, like ﬁrearms, knives, and drugs. Boatwright says suicide is often impulsive and so making it more difﬁcult to access dangerous items can help prevent people harming themselves. Boatwright also says just being around people can be powerful in preventing suicides. “Having someone there decreases the probability of dying by suicide,” he says. “People have to be engaging in a way that is supportive.” Being supportive can mean being a good listener, but also being aware of how your body language affects the conversation. Posture, hand movements, etc. are things that can determine how accepting you come across. And Boatwright says initially avoiding the “jump to ﬁx it” mode is crucial in letting people really express themselves. “Humanize that person in that moment,” he says. “For me, personally, it has allowed me to be in my body, and maybe it allows in a little bit of hope.”
How to maintain positive mental health moving forward ONCE MENTAL HEALTH issues and suicidal thoughts are temporarily assuaged, crisis plans, therapy, or whatever helped people get through the issues shouldn’t be abandoned. Putkoski says there are CONTINUES ON PG. 10
PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER NOVEMBER 18-25, 2020
SUICIDE PREVENTION, CONTINUED FROM PG. 8
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“KNOW THAT PEOPLE WILL BE MOURNING FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES, AND SO BEING INTENTIONAL TO MAINTAIN RELATIONSHIPS, PARTICULARLY TO THOSE WHO HAVE LOST LOVED ONES AND FRIENDS TO SUICIDE, IS VERY IMPORTANT.”
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plethora of resources available — like at AFSP’s website afsp.org — and that helping to break the stigma of mental health is important. She says it’s important to let people know about available resources, remind them there is nothing wrong with seeking them out, and make sure you keep in touch with them. “Continue to check in on them,” says Putkoski. “If you know they had a therapist appointment, ask them about it. Just make sure you are staying connected with them.” Boatwright agrees and says this extends to those who have lost loved ones to suicides. “Know that people will be mourning for the rest of their lives, and so being intentional to maintain relationships, particularly to those who have lost loved ones and friends to suicide, is very important,” says Boatwright. He also says ending the stigma is important, and has noticed that Pittsburgh’s Black community is showing encouraging signs of just that. Steel Smiling has been growing over the last ﬁve years, and many clients are expressing excitement about seeking out mental health support. This is
despite what Boatwright says is a historial aversion to mental health support in the Black community. “For a long time, we as a society, thought Black people have a stigma towards mental health, that Black people want to pray it away, but that is false,” says Boatwright. “I don’t know how that narrative got spread. They are confronting these challenges and wanting to heal.” This gives Boatwright hope for the future, and a hope to address big underlying causes of suicide that have disproportionately affected Black Americans: institutional racism and income inequality. Boatwright says Pittsburghers and Americans need to ask how to address these structural problems. “What are we doing collectively? Where were we when that person was facing eviction, or even simple things like a break-up?” says Boatwright. “And that is what is happening in the pandemic, people are having all these issues all at once. We need to have this discussion. Instead of just self-care, it is called collective care. How are we tending to the mental and social needs of our neighbors?”
Follow news editor Ryan Deto on Twitter @RyanDeto
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HOW TO GRIEVE IN A PANDEMIC BY HANNAH LYNN // HLYNN@PGHCITYPAPER.COM
ACK IN MARCH, when the pan-
demic ﬁrst spread across the U.S., we all knew this would be a year unlike any other. But what we didn’t know, or were maybe in denial of, was how much 2020 would be shaped by grief. Grief over the hundreds of thousands dead. Grief over losing jobs and homes, of not seeing family and friends for months at a time. Grief over favorite restaurants and concert venues closed for good. Grief over people whose mental health collapsed under the weight of it all. Grief is as common an emotion as any other, but it looks different now. Funerals, memorials, wakes, shivas, and other gatherings of mourning are dangerous. So is hugging. If someone you love dies, how do you grieve when you can’t gather with the only other people
who know what it’s like to lose this person? How do you work through a kind of loss in a situation that no pamphlet or article about the ﬁve stages of grief could prepare you for? Allison Spinneweber, a therapist and the clinical director of East End Therapists, describes grief as a nonlinear process of “moving through loss and experiencing it.” Grief, she says, is unavoidable, and the best way to get through it is to face it head-on. Not dealing with grief as it’s happening can result in greater damage down the line. “If you want to deal with grief in a healthy way, you will let yourself sit in your emotions, you will get help to be able to process some of these things, and you just let it occur,” says Spinneweber. “The people that avoid it, it
gets stored in their bodies and comes out down the line in more uncontrollable ways, which could be anger, it could be chronic health issues, it could be a chronic stress response. It could be an emotional response to something that really shouldn’t be a big deal, but because all this grief is stored in the body, it comes out in really extreme ways.” A few weeks ago, after the death of my close friend and coworker Alex Gordon, I didn’t have any choice but to face the grief head-on. Work wasn’t a distraction because all of my work was tied to him. I couldn’t go to a bar to be sad with everyone else and talk about favorite memories. I couldn’t go to a funeral or give his friends and family a hug. This is the scenario millions of Americans are dealing with; regardless
“THE PEOPLE THAT AVOID IT, IT GETS STORED IN THEIR BODIES AND COMES OUT DOWN THE LINE IN MORE UNCONTROLLABLE WAYS, WHICH COULD BE ANGER, IT COULD BE CHRONIC HEALTH ISSUES, IT COULD BE A CHRONIC STRESS RESPONSE. IT COULD BE AN EMOTIONAL RESPONSE TO SOMETHING THAT REALLY SHOULDN’T BE A BIG DEAL, BUT BECAUSE ALL THIS GRIEF IS STORED IN THE BODY, IT COMES OUT IN REALLY EXTREME WAYS.”
of whether or not a death is caused by COVID-19, the pandemic has impeded our ability to grieve in the ways that feel most familiar. Spinneweber describes a step of grieving called “meaning-making,” a way of making sense of the loss when it doesn’t feel like there’s a reason. This feels especially useful now when so many people who were healthy one year ago are now gone. “Because [someone] experienced this and moved through it, now [they] see how [they are] able to help other people in the same situation,” says Spinneweber. “It’s taking it and making good in your life because of what happened.” I wrote an obituary for Alex just a few days after he passed, and it was extremely painful, but it helped me come to terms with it in some ways. But what created the most meaning for me was hearing from Alex’s family and friends who read the obituary and told me how much it meant to them. Several people said it captured Alex exactly as they knew him, and that it took the place of the funeral they couldn’t have. To be able to help other people with their grief made it feel like my grief had a purpose beyond just being sad alone
and crying every day. It takes longer to move through grief under the current circumstances, Spinneweber notes, when the usual means of closure aren’t possible. It also creates a greater risk for depression because of the isolation. It’s especially important, then, to lean on support systems like family and friends, and to get help from a therapist, which Spinneweber strongly recommends. While there might be a waitlist for some therapists’ ofﬁces due to the overwhelming current demand, there’s also increasing accessibility to therapy with more ofﬁces hiring telehealth therapists. “If somebody is grieving and is able to get good social support, and they’re able to talk to a therapist that is equipped to help them, they have a really good chance after this pandemic of moving on in a healthy way,” says Spinneweber. There are also other ways to manage grief, like making sure to take a walk every day, even if it’s short, and connecting with people, even if it’s virtual. Leaning on the people you are able to see in person is useful — sometimes, you just have to let your friend make dinner and do the dishes. Personally, I’ve found writing through it to be helpful.
Follow staff writer Hannah Lynn on Twitter @hanfranny PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER NOVEMBER 18-25, 2020
.ASK THE EXPERT.
“The personalities just don’t match up,” explains Geandreau. “It’s important to just keep talking and have an open dialogue. If the client feels like it’s not a good ﬁt either, say that it’s not working out. It’s kind of like breaking up with a signiﬁcant other. It’s like a feeling you’ll get; if you feel like you can open up to this person, then it’s a good ﬁt.”
TIPS FOR FINDING A GOOD THERAPIST
Researching a therapist
BY JORDAN SNOWDEN JSNOWDEN@PGHCITYPAPER.COM
F THERE’S ONE positive thing that has come from the coronavirus pandemic, it’s that Americans are realizing the importance of mental health. More and more people have started going to therapy, and there are likely many others who would like to start but don’t know where to begin. Pittsburgh City Paper chatted with Elizabeth Geandreau, a clinical psychotherapist who is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a National Board Certiﬁed Counselor, about how to ﬁnd a good therapist. Because ﬁnding the right counselor is a little like dating — not every therapist is for everyone. “It’s nerve-racking and anxietyinducing,” says Geandreau, “but remember that getting in there is the hardest part.”
The first session: Intake The ﬁrst meeting with a therapist is called an intake, and it’s where the client and therapist simply chat and get a feel for each other. “Typically, I always say to clients, ‘You might not know until three or four sessions in if it’s a good ﬁt,’” says Geandreau. “And all along, I’ll be assessing too to see if I’m a good ﬁt for my client.” What that means on Geandreau’s
FINDING THE RIGHT COUNSELOR IS A LITTLE LIKE DATING — NOT EVERY THERAPIST IS FOR EVERYONE. side is that each therapist has their own niche. For Geandreau, she focuses on dialectical behavior therapy, a speciﬁc intervention she can use with clients, usually for people with borderline personality disorder, addiction, bipolar disorder, etc. “Most clinicians can treat depression and anxiety because they’re the most common,” says Geandreau. “If you’re coming in with a speciﬁc problem that
you don’t really know what it is, it’s up to the therapist through sessions to ﬁgure out what’s going on and how they can help. If they don’t have the background and the knowledge, then they should refer out. They should help the client ﬁnd a good ﬁt for them.” Sometimes, even with the right background knowledge to assist the client, the relationship just doesn’t work, and that’s OK.
There are a few ways to ﬁnd a therapist. The ﬁrst and easiest way is to ask around for recommendations — from friends, family, a health professional you already know. If that is not an option, go online. A simple “therapy near me” search will result in a list of agencies and private practices in your area. This is where the research part comes in, where you should pay attention to details like insurance versus private pay and the therapists’ background and degrees. Like online shopping, you can browse different therapists until you ﬁnd one that ﬁts your needs.
So what exactly should you look for in a client-therapist relationship? One, the client should feel like they can connect with the therapist and have an open and honest conversation without fear of judgment. Two, the therapist should have the tools and background knowledge to assist with the client’s problem.
And if a therapist isn’t working out? You can say, “After having a few sessions, I recognize that maybe I feel more comfortable talking to someone else.” “And it’s not hard feelings,” says Geandreau. “You’re not going to click with 100% of people.”
Follow staff writer Jordan Snowden on Twitter @snowden_jordan
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BY LISA CUNNINGHAM LCUNNING@PGHCITYPAPER.COM
ITH SOCIAL-DISTANCING guide-
lines and quarantine restrictions limiting in-person interactions during the pandemic, those with mental health issues are often left isolated, without the peer support that can be helpful to get them through a rough patch. Below are three ways you can reach out and help your Pittsburgh neighbors, who might be in need of some one-onone support right now.
Volunteer and make a new friend plea-agency.org/compeer Compeer is a “friendship program for adults,” matching volunteers with those recovering from mental health difﬁculties. Think of it like a Big Brother/Big Sister program for adults who need extra support. The program is run by Pittsburgh nonproﬁt mental health and education provider PLEA. It matches volunteers and people in need of one-on-one time to help “encourage positive recovery.” Volunteering
A FRIENDLY VOICE ALLEGHENY COUNTY PEER SUPPORT WARMLINE SERVICE 1-866-661-WARM (9276) 9 a.m.-1 a.m. daily
requires a minimum of four hours a month for one year. PLEA also offers Compeer LifeFriends, which provides group socialization, including guest speakers and women’s programming.
Sign your child up to become a pen pal pittsburghymca.org/penpalprogram Some experts have reported that seniors are among those most at high risk of depression during the pandemic. To help, the Pittsburgh YMCA is offering a new pen pal program, pairing kids between kindergarten and ﬁfth grade with seniors in need of some joy from a young friend. Parents don’t need to worry about safety concerns — all letters will be reviewed by staff, and no last names or addresses will be revealed to participants.
Spread some love online Search “Healing Over Everything (H.O.E.)” on Facebook Healing Over Everything (H.O.E.) is a virtual support group on Facebook that
provides a safe space for people to openly discuss whatever issues they’re currently facing. The group is led by Ta’lor Pinkston, owner of the Heart Advocate, a nontraditional therapy practice rooted in the concept of self-love. At a time when many in-person support groups are shut down because of the pandemic, Pinkston’s group has remained constant, with 1,400 current members. People share openly on the private Facebook group, cheer each other on, and offer advice, since some can’t afford a therapist. Pinkston started the group, she told Pittsburgh City Paper in May, because at one point in her life, it was the kind of space she wished she’d had. Now, Pinkston helps both herself and her clients get through the pandemic by reminding them that they are not alone, encouraging “transparency, a strong focus on mental health, self-worth, and mindfulness.” Boosting others while also helping yourself in the process: Win win.
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If you’re having a tough time and need someone to talk to, Pittsburgh nonprofit Peer Support and Advocacy Network’s WARMLINE is a peer-to-peer phone number set up to provide support for those in need of a friendly voice. The number isn’t a crisis line — if you’re feeling suicidal, make sure to call the re:solve Crisis Network at 1-888-796-8226 — but WARMLINE is staffed by specialists who are trained to listen and empathize, and all calls are anonymous, so there’s absolutely no judgment. In addition to the Peer Support and Advocacy Network, WARMLINE is provided in partnership with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services Office of Behavioral Health and Community Care. •
PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER NOVEMBER 18-25, 2020
MORE GRACE A Pittsburgher on her struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts and how we need to help others BY TARA FAY COLEMAN // INFO@PGHCITYPAPER.COM
CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
Tara Fay Coleman, at home
WAS IN A GOOD SPACE last week, focused and motivated, and had been steadily
plugging away at various projects. Since then, my mood has completely shifted. As I type this, I haven’t yet been able to get out of bed or shower. I ate only because my newest medication, the seventh one I’ve tried since March, requires it. I had to rely on my 9-year-old to prepare breakfast for her younger sister, and hope that they are able to occupy themselves because, as shameful as it is to admit, today is one of those days I can’t stand to be around them. I’ve had mental health struggles since my teens. I consistently engaged in self-harm and dealt with inconsistent moods and depressive episodes, all things I never received adequate support for because my parents characterized it as “white people shit.” I don’t blame them. My mother was a child of the ’60s, when — despite movements towards deinstitutionalization, and a shift in how women’s mental health was discussed — there was still a stigma attached that I’m quite sure she just didnt know how to deal with as a parent. In my father’s case, mental health was something that was simply never discussed or even acknowledged in the Black community for most of his lifetime, despite the increased rates of anxiety and depression amongst Black adults, and the staggering inequities in diagnoses and access to care. Living as a Black woman with symptoms of both bipolar and borderline personality disorder, I am hyper-aware of how those inequities increase, especially with regard to seeking treatment.
For many years, I went without seeing a regular therapist or psychiatrist, even after having dealt with severe postpartum depression. I think I convinced myself that I had things under control, and whatever I was dealing with could be attributed to personal weakness, and I had to ﬁght through it. I wanted to be a mother and a woman who could balance working two jobs and being an artist and maintaining a relationship. But eventually, something had to give. I’ve always had suicidal tendencies and a preoccupation with death. Someone close to me went so far as to suggest I have a death wish, as I tend to be a bit reckless. But in March of this year, I was quite sure I didn’t want to live anymore, after having been stuck in one of the worst and longest depressive episodes I had ever dealt with. I felt incredibly lonely and isolated, and I didnt know where to go for help. There’s a quote from the author Jeffery Eugenides I always think about that refers to “the outrageousness of a human being thinking only of herself.”
From there, I started an intensive outpatient program and was immediately connected with a therapist and a psychiatrist, and I began group therapy sessions four hours a day, three days a week. Things have been better since then, but there are deﬁnitely still ups and downs. I also know that there are millions of people who face the same struggles I do, and despite the fact that I am predisposed to deal with many of the issues I’ve had based on my race and gender, my experience is unique in that I am very fortunate to have a support system and friends who knew of options for treatment. In addition to that, I’m insured, and I have a job that was incredibly understanding of my struggles, which gave me all the time that I needed for my recovery. Many others are not in the same place, and as hopeless as I have felt at times, I imagine it’s so much worse for others. I’m here now because when I’m clear-minded enough, I can believe
A CLOSE FRIEND REFERRED ME TO WESTERN PSYCH, AND I HESITATED FOR MORE THAN A WEEK BECAUSE FRANKLY, I WAS TERRIFIED OF HOW A BLACK WOMAN IN A MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS MIGHT BE TREATED. Suicide is by no means a selﬁsh act, but in moments of consideration, I can only focus on how much of a burden to others my existence is, and what a relief it would be to simply not be here anymore, not have to think or feel or be in so much pain. None of these things are true. Outside of these moments, I am very aware of the fact that I’m not a burden, and that ending my life is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Not only that, but I would be deeply missed. A close friend referred me to Western Psych, and I hesitated for more than a week because frankly, I was terriﬁed of how a Black woman in a mental health crisis might be treated. I put things off until one night, I couldn’t take feeling like this anymore. The only thing that stopped me from doing something I might regret was the idea of my children ﬁnding me like that, and the way it would traumatize them. So instead, I called someone to come over, and I went ahead and admitted myself.
that my existence serves a purpose. My hope is for anyone who thinks they are a burden, or feels as though they are unsupported, to have moments where they are able to realize how much they are loved and valued. My hope is to see a continued destigmatization of discussions about mental health, with more resources for Black mamas, Black youth, and the Black queer and trans community, as they are the most at risk. My hope is to see an increase of support for the organizations in the city who are providing mental health services for our marginalized communities. My hope is for my experiences to help someone make the right decision, or push them to ask for help, and in turn have that help be readily accessible. My hope is that we have more grace and understanding for others, and especially for ourselves, because none of us are alone in our struggles, no matter how deeply we feel otherwise.
PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER NOVEMBER 18-25, 2020
CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
LGBTQ TLC BY AMANDA WALTZ // AWALTZ@PGHCITYPAPER.COM
HE LAST FOUR YEARS have taken their toll on the mental health of LGBTQ people in the United States. There have been ups and downs. LGBTQ people received workplace protections thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the Trump administration has also rolled back federal health care protections for trans people, banned trans Americans from serving in the military, and allowed adoption and foster agencies to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples. This, in addition to the distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, has contributed to a mental health crisis throughout the country’s LGBTQ community, particularly among young people. In July, The Trevor Project, an organization focused on suicide prevention and crisis intervention, released the ﬁndings of a 2020 national survey of 40,000 LGBTQ youth. The survey found that 40% of respondents “seriously considered” attempting suicide in the past
12 months, and 68% reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. The survey also reﬂected that many LGBTQ people, particularly those who are trans or nonbinary, attribute mental health decline to discrimination, harassment, threats, or violence they had experienced, as well as current events (an overwhelming 86% said politics negatively impacted their well-being). In a press release from October, Dr. Amy Green of The Trevor Project, says the higher rates of “suicidal thoughts, plans, attempts, and serious injuries” among Black LGBTQ youth was especially alarming. “It is clear that youth who hold marginalized identities, like those who are Black and/or LGBTQ, are particularly susceptible to poor mental health outcomes and suicidality, and deserve increased attention from prevention and response programs,” says Green. These statistics are worrisome, not only on a nationwide level, but on state
and local level, as Pennsylvania still lags in terms of LGBTQ rights and protections. As a result, many organizations and nonproﬁts, including The Trevor Project, are addressing the mental health issues affecting the LGBTQ community by offering access to therapy, counseling, suicide prevention services, and more. Others help by giving LGBTQ people the resources and support to escape or avoid situations that directly contribute to thoughts of suicide or self harm.
Mental health resources for LGBTQ Pittsburghers Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania offers conﬁdential therapy and services for everyone through The C.A.R.E Program, with the website ensuring an inclusive space for “trans individuals,” “nonbinary folks,” and people who identify as gay, bisexual, pansexual, lesbian, and queer. Sessions are offered at a sliding scale for those without insurance or with limited means.
There are also a number of local and national hotlines LGBTQ people can call for help, especially if they’re experiencing suicidal thoughts. Through a partnership between Allegheny County and UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital, a free crisis service line can be reached at 1-888-7-YOU-CAN (796-8226) that puts Allegheny County callers in touch with trained clinicians. Resolve also offers a walk-in center and mobile crisis team. The national Trans Lifeline offers emotional and ﬁnancial support to trans people in crisis by putting them in touch with trans peers (877-5658860). The Trevor Project has a few safe, conﬁdential ways for LGBTQ youth under the age of 25 to ﬁnd help, including the TrevorLifeline (1-866-488-7386), TrevorChat instant messaging service, and TrevorText (text START to 678-678). A variety of local organizations specialize in mental and behavioral care for LGBTQ individuals. Persad Center (persadcenter.org), Central Outreach
NATURE INSPIRES RESILIENCE
CP PHOTO: LAKE LEWIS
Wellness Center (centraloutreach.com/ services/mental-health), and Allies for Health and Well-Being (alliespgh.org/ clinic-services) all focus on the mental health and well-being of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s LGBTQ population. Black people in the LGBTQ community can also ﬁnd Black-led services more tailored to their mental health needs and concerns. Duane Binion and John Easter, co-founders of True T PGH (truetpgh.com), say that offering specialized spaces is essential, adding that “seeking therapy as an LGBTQIA+ person of color in Pittsburgh can often feel like such a daunting and impossible task.” “Therapy is something that is not publicly talked much about and/or frowned down upon across most communities of color, as we have been socially trained to believe that the mere thought of one seeking mental and/or therapeutic treatment is a sign of weakness,” they explain in a joint statement. In addition to arts and entertainment and social activism, Binion and Easter stress that True T PGH serves LGBTQ communities of color through “meaningful resource sharing,” as well as providing emergency support with care packages and ﬁnancial assistance. Additionally, True T PGH has also “established strong relationships with some of Pittsburgh’s top LGBTQIA+ friendly health care providers.” They also highlight Trans YOUniting (trans-
younitingpgh.org), a Black and trans-led organization focusing on emergency services for trans and nonbinary people, and PROUD Haven (proudhaven.org), which ﬁnds emergency housing for LGBTQ youth. Housing is also a priority for SisTers PGH (sisterspgh.org), a local Black and trans-led organization that serves transgender and gender non-conforming youth, with a focus on transgender women of color. Lack of stable or safe shelter is a major stressor for LGBTQ people, with circumstances ranging from being discriminated against by rental companies or landlords, to not feeling welcome in homeless shelters. Many LGBTQ youth are also kicked out of their homes or leave because of homophobic or transphobic family members or caregivers. True T PGH addresses the issue with its OPTION-U emergency housing program. Binion and Easter say while the LGBTQ health care in Pittsburgh has broadened over the past few years — pointing out how the city went from one provider to several — more still needs to be done. “It is important that we start to intentionally diversify our medical centers,” they say. “Community members need to see people who reﬂect on themselves to sometimes feel more comfortable and engaged when entering these spaces.”
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Follow senior writer Amanda Waltz on Twitter @AWaltzCP PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER NOVEMBER 18-25, 2020
Northside Common Ministries .SUPPORT.
(ncmin.org) is looking for non-electronic forms of entertainment:
GIVING BACK Ways to help Pittsburgh
• Magazines and newspapers • Any form of printed literature, or nature/ photography books • Art supplies, sketchbooks, notebooks, drawing paper • Puzzles, games, cards, and the like
homeless shelters during the pandemic
Pittsburgh Mercy Winter Shelters
BY RYAN DETO RYANDETO@PGHCITYPAPER.COM
(412-232-5739) are asking for in-kind donations by appointment:
HE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC has been hard on the entire country, especially for those experiencing homelessness. The loss of income related to the pandemic has led to increases in homeless populations across the country, and social-distancing requirements have made it difﬁcult to house large groups of people together. In pre-pandemic times, those experiencing homelessness might have already had a hard time ﬁnding meaningful social interactions or leisure activities. Now, COVID has exacerbated those problems and has been extremely difﬁcult on their mental health. With gathering places largely shuttered and the weather getting colder, there is even more demand to provide for Pittsburghers who are currently without shelter. Donations to homeless advocacy organizations were increasing even before the pandemic, but there is still a huge need. Pittsburgh City Paper has compiled ways to donate and help groups that serve people currently suffering from homelessness. It’s best to donate goods
• Hats, scarves, gloves • Boots (men’s and women’s, all sizes) • Socks • Winter coats (men’s and women’s, especially sizes 1X-3X) • Personal hygiene kits (toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, deodorant, soap, washcloth, hand sanitizer, etc.)
Bethlehem Haven (bethlehemhaven.org/donate) are asking for donations, but can only accept a limited amount due to storage:
and money that shelters and organizations are speciﬁcally asking for. Financial donations are always encouraged, since that provides the shelters the ﬂexibility to purchase what they need, when they need it. Some shelters and organizations to donate include: Northside Common Ministries, Women’s Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh,
Bethlehem Haven, East End Cooperative Ministry, and Pittsburgh Mercy (which operates a winter shelter at Smithﬁeld United Church of Christ in Downtown). If you want to give in-kind donations, you should purchase new items. Here are some details about the most necessary items some shelters are currently requesting.
• Flip flops (used as shower shoes) • Full-sized toiletries for men, women or neutral-smelling items — body wash, conditioner, deodorant, lotion, shampoo, soap, toothpaste • Gift cards to purchase groceries, household items, or personal care items • Grab-and-go snacks (cereal bars, granola bars, cracker packs, etc.) • Twin sized sheets and comforters — NEW only. • Underwear (various sizes-men and women) •
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Men’s Virility Restored in Clinical Trial; 275% More Blood Flow in 5 Minutes A newly improved version of America’s best-selling male performance enhancer gives 70-year-old men the ability and stamina they enjoyed in their 30’s. America’s best-selling sexual performance enhancer just got a lot better. It’s the latest breakthrough for nitric oxide – the molecule that makes E.D. woes fade and restores virility when it counts the most. Nitric oxide won the Nobel Prize in 1998. It’s why “the little blue pill” works. More than 200,000 studies conmrm it’s the key to superior sexual performance. And this new discovery increases nitric oxide availability resulting in even quicker, stronger and longer-lasting performance. One double-blind, placebo-controlled study (the “goldstandard” of research) involved a group of 70-year-old-men. They didn’t exercise. They didn’t eat healthy. And researchers reported their “nitric oxide availability was almost totally compromised,” resulting in blood now less than HALF of a man in peak sexual health. But only mve minutes after the mrst dose their blood now increased 275%, back to levels of a perfectly healthy 31-yearold man! “It’s amazing,” remarks nitric oxide expert Dr. Al Sears. “That’s like giving 70-year-old men the sexual power of 30-year-olds.”
WHY SO MUCH EXCITEMENT? Despite the billions men spend annually on older nitric oxide therapies, there’s one well-known problem with them. They don’t always work. A very distinguished and awarded doctor practicing at a prestigious Massachusetts hospital who has studied Nitric Oxide for over 43 years states a “demciency of bioactive nitric oxide… leads to impaired endothelium-dependent vasorelaxation.” In plain English, these older products may increase levels of nitric oxide. But that’s only half the battle. If it’s not bioactively available then your body can’t absorb it to produce an erection. Experts simply call it the nitric oxide “glitch.” And until now, there’s never been a solution.
NEXT GENERATION NITRIC OXIDE FORMULA FLYING OFF SHELVES Upon further research, America’s No. 1 men’s health expert Dr. Al Sears discovered certain nutrients mx this “glitch” resulting in 275% better blood now. He’s combined those nutrients with proven nitric oxide
boosters in a new formula called Primal Max Red. In clinical trials, 5,000 mg is required for satisfying sexual performance. Primal Max Red contains a bigger, 9,000 mg per serving dose. It’s become so popular, he’s having trouble keeping it in stock. Dr. Sears is the author of more than 500 scientimc papers. Thousands of people listened to him speak at the recent Palm Beach Health & Wellness Festival featuring Dr. Oz. NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath recently visited his clinic, the Sears Institute for Anti-Aging Medicine. Primal Max Red has only been available for a few months — but everyone who takes it reports a big difference. “I have the energy to have sex three times in one day, WOW! That has not happened in years. Oh, by the way I am 62,” says Jonathan K. from Birmingham, AL.
HOW IT WORKS Loss of erection power starts with your blood vessels. Specimcally, the inside layer called the endothelium where nitric oxide is made. The problem is various factors THICKEN your blood vessels as you age. This blocks availability causing the nitric oxide “glitch.” The result is difmculty in getting and sustaining a healthy erection. How bad is the problem? Researcher shows the typical 40-year-old man absorbs 50% less nitric oxide. At 50, that drops to 25%. And once you pass 60 just a measly 15% gets through. To make matters worse, nitric oxide levels start declining in your 30’s. And by 70, nitric oxide production is down an alarming 75%. Primal Max Red is the mrst formula to tackle both problems. Combining powerful nitric oxide boosters and a proven delivery mechanism that defeats the nitric oxide “glitch” resulting in 275% better blood now. There’s not enough space here to fully explain how it works, so Dr. Sears will send anyone who orders Primal Max Red a free special report that explains everything.
MORE CLINICAL RESULTS Nutrients in Primal Max Red have logged impressive results. In a Journal of Applied Physiology study, one resulted in a 30 times MORE nitric oxide. And these increased levels lasted up to 12 hours. “I measured my nitric oxide levels, you can buy a test kit from Amazon,” reports 48-year-old Jeff O. “Monday night I showed depleted.”
A new discovery that increases nitric oxide availability was recently proven in a clinical trial to boost blood ﬂow 275% Then he used ingredients in Primal Max Red and, “The results were off the charts. I mrst woke around 3 a.m. on Tuesday very excited. My nitric oxide levels measured at the top end of the range.”
FREE BONUS TESTOSTERONE BOOSTER Every order also gets Dr. Sears testosterone boosting formula Primal Max Black for free. “If you want passionate ‘rip your clothes off’ sex you had in your younger days, you need nitric oxide to get your erection going. And testosterone for energy and drive,” says Dr. Sears. “You get both with Primal Max Red and Primal Max Black.”
HOW TO GET PRIMAL MAX To secure free bottles of Primal Max Black and get the hot, new Primal Max Red formula, buyers should contact the Sears Health Hotline at 1-800-330-0163 within the next 48 hours. “It’s not available in drug stores yet,” says Dr. Sears. “The Hotline allows us to ship directly to the customer.” Dr. Sears feels so strongly about Primal Max, all orders are backed by a 100% money-back guarantee. “Just send me back the bottle and any unused product within 90 days from purchase date, and I’ll send you all your money back,” he says. The Hotline will be open for the next 48 hours. After that, the phone number will be shut down to allow them to restock. Call 1-800-330-0163 to secure your limited supply of Primal Max Red and free bottles of Primal Max Black. You don’t need a prescription, and those who call in the mrst 24 hours qualify for a signimcant discount. Use Promo Code NP1120PMAX223 when you call in. Lines are frequently busy, but all calls will be answered.
THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN EVALUATED BY THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION. THIS PRODUCT IS NOT INTENDED TO DIAGNOSE, TREAT, CURE OR PREVENT ANY DISEASE. RESULTS MAY VARY 326071_10_x_9.875.indd 1
11/9/20 3:24 21 PM PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER NOVEMBER 18-25, 2020
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ACROSS 1. Skirt below the knees 5. “Preach, brother!” 9. Wax collectors 14. Adjusted the levels, as with music 15. Model Delevingne 16. “Nice place you got here, it’d be a pity if anything happened to it” speakers 17. “Party’s just started” 18. Without much content 19. Tripped 20. Singer-songwriter Randy in squalid digs? 23. Compass dir. 24. Poetic rage 25. Hundreds and hundreds of wks. 26. Tramp stamp, e.g. 28. Watch part 30. Somewhat controversial 32. Sarah McLachlan single with the lyrics “I do believe I’ve failed you” 33. French religious title: Abbr. 35. Cowboy Prescott 36. Exam for sophs. and jrs. 37. “There’s one way into the sewer! And another!”? 42. “Home Sweet Home” hair metal
band, for short 43. His No. 8 is retired by the Bosox 44. Lolcat greeting 45. Memorouting abbr. 46. Hearty bowlful 48. Old-school dual-purpose drive 52. “Aye” 53. Cost of business 54. “That feels good” 56. Volte-face in a Volt 57. Flustered states caused by an intestinal ailment? 61. Annapolis newbie 62. ___ the kicker (calls a time out just before a 3-point attempt) 63. Dirty tank collection 64. Prove to be false 65. Yale Bowl boosters 66. Joy of MSNBC 67. Dumps at church 68. Empire State school syst. 69. Seaside aerie builder
DOWN 1. Intertwines together 2. Measure of sharpness 3. He’s got a lot to offer 4. Country poem 5. She’s just pretending 6. “Das klagende Lied” composer Gustav
7. Northwest Pennsylvania county 8. Nursery installation 9. Diving ducks 10. Friendly 11. “Hate to break it to you” 12. Like House races 13. Down in the dumps 21. Aware of 22. R&B singer Badu 27. Bag maker Spade 29. Scared-looking 31. In ___ (bumfuzzled) 32. Sap-sucking insect 34. ___ Palace (Macron’s home) 37. Exam you might practice for before starting a practice
38. Congressdefining section 39. Where Thumbelina sleeps 40. Places to grab a bite 41. Tag’s opposite 47. Enter up to your shins 49. Pacer? 50. One who never got busy 51. Infamous Marquis 53. Leaves the scene 55. ___ fit 58. Closing paragraphs? 59. Voting rights org. 60. Animal with long ears 61. Sammy that gives some classmates anaphylactic shock LAST WEEK’S ANSWERS
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FOR INFORMATION ON HOW TO PLACE A CLASSIFIEDS ADVERTISEMENT, CALL 412-685-9009 ext. 106 HELP WANTED
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IN The Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania: No. GD-20-10990. In re petition of Naomi Rose Ullendorff Gorﬁnkle & Elan Kiderman for change of name to Naomi Rose Gorﬁnkle Ullendorff & Elan Kiderman Ullendorff. To all persons interested: Notice is hereby given that an order of said Court authorized the ﬁling of said petition and ﬁxed the 22nd day of December, 2020, at 9:45 a.m., as the time and the Motions Room, City-County Building, Pittsburgh, PA, as the place for a hearing, when and where all persons may show cause, if any they have, why said name should not be changed as prayed for
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1789 S. Braddock Ave, #410 Pittsburgh, PA 15218 To make an appointment: (412) 247-2310
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OF THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PITTSBURGH
ADVERTISEMENT FOR BIDS Sealed proposals shall be deposited at the Administration Building, Belleﬁeld Entrance Lobby, 341 South Belleﬁeld Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pa., 15213, on December 08, 2020, until 2:00 P.M., local prevailing time for:
PGH. CHARTIERS EARLY CHILDHOOD CENTER • Finish Floor Replacements and Miscellaneous Work • General and Asbestos Abatement Prime
PGH. CLASSICAL ACADEMY 6-8 • Bleacher Demolition Project • General Prime
PGH. MILLER PREK-5 • Comprehensive Plaster Repair and Painting • General, Mechanical, Electrical and • Asbestos Abatement Prime
PGH. PERRY HIGH SCHOOL • CTE Cosmetology Relocation • General, Plumbing, Mechanical, Electrical and Asbestos Abatement Primes
PGH. PERRY HIGH SCHOOL • Bleacher Demolition Project • General Prime
Project Manual and Drawings will be available for purchase on November 02, 2020 at Modern Reproductions (412-488-7700), 127 McKean Street, Pittsburgh, Pa., 15219 between 9:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M. The cost of the Project Manual Documents is non-refundable. Project details and dates are described in each project manual We are an equal rights and opportunity school district.
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PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER NOVEMBER 18-25, 2020
Pittsburgh's leading arts and entertainment newsweekly featuring our Health Issue. Shining a light on mental health resources during an espe...
Published on Nov 17, 2020
Pittsburgh's leading arts and entertainment newsweekly featuring our Health Issue. Shining a light on mental health resources during an espe...