HealthAlliance Hospital in Kingston offers a helping hand to a Wappingers Falls man struggling emotionally.
By Lisa Cesarano
As seen in the September/October 2019 issue of Advancing Care
For Scott Kohn, a childhood trauma set the stage for emotional struggles throughout his adult life.
One Friday in the fall of 1998, Kohn’s mother, a nurse, called in sick, which was unusual for her. When Scott returned home from school, his mother experienced a grand mal seizure. She died two days later, at age 50, from a rare liver condition.
“It was my first weekend of middle school,” recalls Kohn, 32. “It was traumatizing. We all had a very difficult time with her passing.”
The community rallied to provide support to Kohn’s family. During his high school years, Kohn maintained that he didn’t need help. “I felt like I couldn’t let down all of the people who helped us. I never faced what was absent in my life,” he says. In his early 20s, Kohn felt further adrift. “I didn’t know what to do. I had multiple jobs, doing what I could to pay the bills and get by.”
In 2010, Kohn began exhibiting risky behaviors. “There were ups and downs, highs and lows. I began spending large sums of money, not caring about my decisions and who I hurt. I didn’t realize the effect I had on other people.
Behavioral Health Services
Behavioral Health Center (Valhalla). . . 914.493.7088
Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital . . . . 914.493.7088
MidHudson Regional Hospital . . . . . 845.431.8287
Good Samaritan Hospital . . . . . . . . . 845.368.5242
Bon Secours Community Hospital . . 845.858.7234
HealthAlliance Hospital . . . . . . . . . . 845.338.2500
“I was working in corporate America, for a financial firm,” Kohn continues. “That’s when I hit rock-bottom. I felt alone, like I had no one to lean on. I stopped caring about my job. I was indifferent to my nieces and nephews, who are the loves of my life. I didn’t have a place to live; my bags were in my car again, for the fourth time in my adult life. I knew I was in trouble.”
Kohn’s first call was to his sister, Arnell Tuttle, BS, RN-BC, at the time a nurse at HealthAlliance Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), in Kingston.
“Arnell is my rock. She is my answer,” says Kohn. “She told me, ‘We’re coming to get you.’” Kohn, living in Connecticut at the time, went to stay with Tuttle, her husband and their two children at their home in Rosendale.
“Scott is always putting others before himself,” said Tuttle. “He shielded his family and friends from his struggles in order to protect them from worry.”
As for Kohn, “They were the three hardest words: ‘I need help.’ I never thought I’d ask, because there’s such a stigma surrounding mental illness. But I was in a bad place, a dark place.”
Tuttle attended a therapy session with her brother. When the therapist suggested inpatient hospitalization, “we worked together to formulate a safety plan that morning. I asked the therapist to allow Scott to come home with me. We scheduled an intake appointment at the Partial Hospitalization Program for the following morning.” He was diagnosed with bipolar depression and anxiety.
A Multidisciplinary Approach
Kohn entered the Partial Hospitalization Program the next day. The Mental Health Services Department at HealthAlliance Hospital: Mary’s Avenue Campus offers comprehensive evaluations and treatments for a wide range of emotional and mental disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, through inpatient hospitalization and adult and adolescent partial hospitalization programs.
There, Kohn found “a wonderful, therapeutic, supportive setting,” along with “mindfulness and coping skills and insight into his illness,” says Tuttle. He attended the program for 28 days, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Kohn began a course of antidepressant medication and participated in multiple forms of therapy, including dialectical behavior therapy, art therapy, pet therapy, family therapy and daily group therapy sessions.
Midway through the third week, something shifted in Kohn.
“I had gotten everything off my chest. I felt at peace, like a different person. It felt like an out-of-body experience. I had motivation and drive.” His newfound clarity also brought the realization that he’d been embarrassed about his emotional struggles.
Inspired to Give Back
“I am in a good place now,” says Kohn, who married his “best friend,” Michelle, in October 2018. Of their relationship, he says, “We balance each other out.” Beyond Tuttle and his wife, Scott also acknowledges the support of his other sister Lauren, brother Bobby, and his wife’s family.
With stability in his personal life, Kohn has also found professional gratification as a staff development coordinator for a nonprofit agency that supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Additionally, he’s worked to raise money and awareness for a cause “near and dear” to his heart, running a half-marathon to benefit the Mid-Hudson affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“I can’t begin to pay back the Partial Hospitalization Program for what they did for me,” reflects Kohn. His message to anyone facing similar struggles? “Know that it’s okay to ask for help.”
“I’m so proud of Scott; he is courageous, compassionate and grateful,” says Tuttle, today HealthAlliance Hospital’s Administrative Director of Mental Health Services. “Scott’s journey inspires me to continue to do the work that I do each and every day. It is one that is filled with strength, hope, growth and change. Scott continues to provide support to others, while giving mental illness a name, a voice and a story.”
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