Behavioral Health Program Helps People Dealing with Sight Loss

December 22, 2016

Posted by NY1

New York has some of the best vision specialists in the country, but what often goes overlooked for those who’ve lost their sight is the impact on their mental health. NY1’s Erin Billups filed the following report.

Kenneth Key used to be an MTA bus driver. His first routes were in the Bronx. Eventually, he was navigating some of Manhattan’s busiest streets.

But his career as a driver abruptly stopped when he failed a vision test.

“The transit authority gives their own eye exams, different from the DMV,” he says. “It was much more stringent.”

He was diagnosed with glaucoma and thyroid eye disease. He was quickly losing his sight in both eyes.

“I was really getting depressed, getting afraid, didn’t know what was going to happen, didn’t know how I was going to survive,” Key says.

A friend suggested he seek help at the Lighthouse Guild, which has one of the few behavioral health programs available for those with sight loss in the country.

Goldie Dersh leads the guild’s behavioral health team and says the goal is to empower their patients.

“The whole issue is to provide individual and group therapies to help a person learn these new skills, to decrease their anxiety and fear about them,” Dersh says.

“It just told me that this is all doable,” Key says.

The services also helped Key truly understand that depression had been with him all his life. He says losing his sight forced him to face his illness and its consequences, including a drug addiction he developed.

“I know a lot of people that will never reach out for help unless something tragic or drastic happens to them. But emotional support is out there, and it’s available and it should be taken advantage of, because it does work,” he says.

Now, Key is blind in his right eye and can only see foggy images in his left, but he’s no longer depressed. Instead, he’s trying to help others who are losing sight.

Dersh says the sooner those who’ve lost sight get help, the better off they’ll be.

“When there’s immediate intervention, it provides a totally different view on the patient’s abilities and capacities,” she says.

For more information on the program, visit this link.

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