Beyond the Hill

Safe Space CNY provides accessible mental health support services

Emily Steinberger | Photo Editor

Tracy Mergler created Safe Space CNY, a communal mental health collective, eight months ago because helping other people in their recovery drives her personal recovery journey.

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Tracy Mergler was diagnosed with an eating disorder when she was 14 years old. Shortly after her diagnosis, she found that there was very little help available in central New York. The Syracuse native always had to leave the area to seek treatment for her mental health.

Since then, Mergler has dreamed of bringing a space to central New York that provides accessible support for people struggling with their mental health. Eight months ago she founded Safe Space CNY, a communal mental health collective, and began running support groups.

The wellness organization provides safety, connection and understanding to community members who are battling mental health issues by offering peer-facilitated support groups and creative therapy groups.

“I want everyone (to be) welcome,” Mergler said. “I want this to be a place that is safe for everyone.”

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Safe Space CNY is run out of SALTspace near Armory Square but has a permanent location in Syracuse CoWorks on South Salina Street that will open in mid-April.

Up until very recently, Mergler was the only one who was facilitating support groups both online and in person. Now, with the growth of the collective, she said there has been an influx of people looking to get involved.

Niki Patino, an author, spiritual life coach and friend of Mergler’s, is one of the people helping to bring her dreams to fruition. The two are currently working together to design a five-week life coaching course.

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Patino said that being involved in the process of helping Mergler put together programming for Safe Space has been exciting because she supports Mergler and what she’s doing for the community.

“I would offer up all of my expertise to help people in the community with this mission,” Patino said. “I think it’s really important work.”

Mergler said that helping other people in their recovery drives her personal recovery journey, and it’s why she plans to have a mentorship program within Safe Space. She feels that helping other people is important in one’s recovery.

Even though Safe Space CNY is still in its early stages, the support groups are already helping people. Amber May Paice started attending the eating disorder recovery group about eight months ago. Within the group she found a sense of community around a topic that feels isolating.

“I found that it’s sometimes difficult to find people who can really empathize with eating disorder recovery, and the work that takes an intentionality in that healing process,” Paice said.

Being a part of growing Safe Space CNY has motivated Patino to put together new life coaching courses catered to what people need right now because of the pandemic.

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Yiwei He | Design Editor

What the central New York community needs is more access to mental health support, Merger said, and that’s what she hopes to provide with Safe Space CNY. She recognizes how many generations of people are struggling with their mental health in the area.

As someone who struggled with her eating disorder and mental health in college, she wishes to bring more support and resources to college and high school students.

“It’s really important to feel validation within your own recovery, but then also feel like you’re helping somebody else,” Mergler said. “It provides meaning.”

Mental health is going to be at the forefront coming out of the pandemic, Patino said, and that is especially true for student populations. She sees a deficit with student mental health services, so she thinks it’s great that Mergler is trying to branch out and provide local students with more resources and support.

Ultimately, Mergler said that she wants anyone who wants to get involved with Safe Space to be involved, including health professionals. She hopes that participants can find what works for them and their recovery.

“I hope that this only grows, and that Safe Space is seen as a necessary community space in all cities,” Mergler said. “All cities should have a place where people can come and connect. That’s my goal.”







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