NYC Launches ‘Elevate’ Support Group For Nightlife Workers

Working in New York’s nightlife for the past 20 years, Mizael Ramos said he has seen many people struggling with addiction and mental health issues. At one point, he said he took a break from planning parties to heal himself. He said people in the industry don’t tend to speak publicly about these struggles.

“People don’t want to talk about some of these issues,” said Ramos, who has held various nightlife positions. “Can we just skip it and start drinking?” Ignore it and go straight to work? New York City is so fast.

Ramos is now volunteering to help a new, free online support group the city launched this summer for people in the nightlife industry. The group, which meets on Monday afternoons, is part of a larger initiative called Elevate, launched by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and the Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health. The program also provides people working in entertainment, bars and clubs access to free individual case managers who can provide links to therapy and other behavioral health services. Ramos said he was encouraged by the weekly conversations.

“It was a great opportunity to have a space to talk to people with depression, mental health issues, addictions and navigating the nightlife of New York City and trying to make ends meet,” said Ramos said.

The city provides services by Back row, a national non-profit organization originally founded to help people in the music industry. For now, the $ 15,000 initiative continues through the end of the year, with the Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health spending $ 5,200 for Backline to manage the weekly support group. The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment has committed an additional $ 9,750 for case management. A spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment did not give an estimate of how many people the program could serve, only that it aims to reach as many nightlife people as possible.

Elevate also hosts an upcoming webinar on how to use the fentanyl test strips and the overdose reversal drug naloxone, and another offering bystander training on how to identify risk for depression and suicide.

Night Mayor Ariel Palitz said the initiative was part of a larger mission to take the concerns of New Yorkers in the nightlife industry seriously. Palitz says she identified harm reduction from alcohol and drug use as one of her top priorities for the Office of Nightlife, following its launch in 2018, by hosting a listening tour in five arrondissements.

“It’s not just a night out,” she said. “It’s not only culturally important and our calling card to the world, it’s our economic engine. It’s a $ 35.1 billion industry. It supports 300,000 jobs, small businesses.

“As someone who still struggles with the trauma of the past year and a half and has to DJ in front of big crowds, or even just be in a big crowd, [Elevate is] something I would definitely benefit from, ”said Lauren Flax, DJ and member of a separate Overdose Prevention Group Last Night at DJ Saved My Life, after hearing about the initiative. “Fortunately, I have a therapist that I work with every week, but not everyone has access.”

Finding an affordable therapist in the city can be difficult, even for those with insurance. And increased demand amid the pandemic has made it even more difficult, said Linda Rosenberg, psychiatric social work associate at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Targeting resources at specific populations, such as those working in the nightlife and providing free case management, could make it easier for someone to connect to help when they’re ready, Rosenberg added. She has worked with the city on previous mental health initiatives, but was not involved in planning for Elevate.

Funding the program on a limited basis to begin with, she said, “You have the opportunity both to see if people are using it and to make the changes that are needed based on how people are using it. “

When COVID-19 forced Bushwick’s House of Yes nightclub to close last spring, club co-founder Anya Sapozhnikova said she lost not only her main source of income, but also her outlet for expression. creative and social life.

“We all have trauma, we all have something we can work on internally,” she said. “It all really surfaced. And then when you take out all the coping mechanisms and take out your community, you’re really just left with the demons to deal with.

Last October, Sapozhnakova realized that she needed help and registered in a 30-day mental hospital. A few months after her release, she organized an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on Zoom in which she answered questions about her experience with other players in the nightlife industry and House of Yes fans. She noticed a huge interest in the subject.

Night Mayor Palitz said the pandemic was making behavioral health in general a more urgent priority. “Without a doubt, the pandemic has really underscored the immediacy and reality that we are in crisis,” she added.

Palitz contacted Sapozhnakova about her plans for Elevate as she briefed the AMA about her hospitalization. Sapozhnakova said she was excited to continue the conversation about mental health and is now working to promote the resources the city has made available among its staff and the wider network of artists that House of Yes employs.

“We’re just spreading the word and putting this in the hands of the people,” Sapozhnakova said, “because I know a lot of people are definitely still struggling. “

Virginia S. Braud