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Queens Chronicle

Ozone Park man wins high praise

Social worker lands White House award for volunteer work on health

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Posted: Thursday, January 19, 2012 12:00 pm

Ozone Park resident Jacob Berelowitz is just 27 years old, but he has already received praise from the country’s highest office — the White House.

Berelowitz, the host of “Talk Therapy Television,” received the prestigious Lifetime United States Presidential Volunteer Call to Service Award on Monday for contributing more than 4,000 hours to promoting awareness of mental health.

“I really want to get the conversation started about mental illness, what the symptoms are and what treatment options are out there,” said Berelowitz, a Brooklyn native who now lives in Ozone Park and who founded his show about two and half years ago. “I also wanted to push back against the stigma against mental illness.”

“Talk Therapy Television” airs every Friday at 4 p.m. and again at 7 p.m. the following Thursday on Channel 35 in Queens.

A licensed social worker who received his master’s from New York University, Berelowitz began to seriously think about the need for education about behavioral health while working at Holliswood Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Jamaica.

“I was providing psychotherapy to individuals and their families who’d come in after a serious crisis, like a suicide attempt or a psychotic episode, and I discovered that instead of providing therapy, I spent a lot of time educating people,” Berelowitz said. “Had people known more of the warning signs, there might not have been something like a suicide attempt. I remember a patient telling me, ‘I knew something was wrong, and I had problems, but what good would it do to sit on a couch and free associate?’”

Berelowitz said that’s a common misconception of what therapy is —gone are the days of Sigmund Freud, and instead therapists now focus on behavior and helping individuals implement longstanding changes to better their lives.

Since he began the public television show, Berelowitz said he’s had a number of high-profile mental health experts on the program —including the New York State Mental Health Commissioner.

While Berelowitz, and individuals who volunteer with him to produce the show, will sometimes film at the public access studios in Queens and Brooklyn, they often travel to guests’ offices in places like Washington DC, Atlanta and Virginia.

“I’m also doing quite a bit of work with the federal government,” said Berelowitz. “‘Talk Therapy’ partnered with the federal government to do something called the Voice Awards, which honors films and television shows that portray mental illness in a good light.”

Every episode of “Talk Therapy” is available on the show’s website at talktherapytv.org. They are also available on YouTube.

“Mental illness is really common, and we want more people to start talking about it,” Berelowitz said.

Welcome to the discussion.