Finger Lakes TV offers ‘Straight Talk on Mental Health’

Posted on August 28, 2023

The video series features Finger Lakes students and professionals tackling mental health topics in depth

Finger Lakes Community College has produced a video series on mental health, with a focus on youth, that debuts Sunday, Sept. 10, on the Finger Lakes Television public broadcast network.

“Straight Talk on Mental Health” is a series of seven 30-minute episodes that touch on several aspects of mental health, including counseling, mental health first aid, trauma and resilience.

The show features students from Finger Lakes Community College and Hobart and William Smith Colleges interacting with mental health professionals, leaders from K-12 schools, and the Partnership for Ontario County.

“My hope for this series is to eliminate the stigma around mental health and raise awareness of the wide variety of training, services, and supports available for young people in our region,” said Joseph Fantigrossi, founder and former coordinator of Seneca County Community Schools and current regional community schools coordinator for Monroe 2-Orleans Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES).

Community school associations provide training and technical assistance to improve the ability of K-12 schools to serve students struggling with poverty, mental health and other challenges. Fantigrossi took part in episodes about Youth Mental Health First Aid and resilience. 

“I hope that individuals who view this learn more about mental health and the impacts of trauma,” added Ashley Lewis, vice president of operations for Family Counseling Service of the Finger Lakes. “I would love to see individuals empowered to seek out mental health supports and to know they are not alone. The more we discuss mental health, the more we dismantle the stigma associated with it.”

Lewis served as the expert for episodes on mental health counseling and trauma.

The series also features Hennessey Lustica, community schools mental health director at the Seneca Falls Central School District and assistant professor at the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester.

The episodes will run on Finger Lakes Television, the public broadcasting network based at FLCC. Finger Lakes TV is available on Roku, a 24/7 webstream at, Spectrum cable channel 1304 in the Finger Lakes region, and the Cablecast app for Apple and Android.

“Straight Talk on Mental Health” will run daily at 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. with two additional spots at 9 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays. Each episode runs for two weeks. After release, they will also be available on demand on the station’s website at and the Finger Lakes Community College YouTube channel.

Episodes and release dates are as follows:

Episode 1: Mental Health Counseling, Part I: The Basics, Sept. 10

Zachary Shirley and Terrance “Dom” Dominguez-Hover, president and vice president, respectively of the FLCC Student Veterans Organization in 2022-23, interview Hennessey Lustica about the basics of mental health counseling with a focus on middle and high schoolers. 

Episode 2: Mental Health Counseling, Part II: Tough Questions, Sept. 24

Shirley and Dominguez-Hover ask Ashley Lewis of Family Counseling Service of the Finger Lakes, about what happens when counseling doesn’t seem to be working.

Episode 3: Mental Health: Who are the Players? Oct. 8

Shirley and Dominguez-Hover meet with Lustica to talk about the different types of professionals who work in mental health, with a focus on those who work in K-12 districts.

Episode 4: Mental Health First Aid, Oct. 22

Joseph D. Fantigrossi of Monroe County and Seneca County Community Schools, meets with a community member and Hobart and William Smith Colleges student who trained in youth mental health first aid. Terrence Rodgers, a youth advocate and job coach for Finger Lakes Community Schools, and Colleen McElduff, an HWS master’s degree student, explain why they took the course and what they learned.

Episode 5: Community Resources, Nov. 5

Shirley learns about mental health programming available from the Partnership for Ontario County. Tracey Dello Stritto, the executive director, and Ashley Tomassini, program coordinator, explain recent initiatives: Ontario Cares, an online resource, and Lock and Talk, a suicide prevention project.

Episode 6: What is Trauma? Nov. 19

Shirley and Dominguez-Hover ask Ashley Lewis to explain trauma and how people can get past the trauma in their lives.

Episode 7: What is Resilience? Dec. 3

Blythe Hodgson, an FLCC student, asks Joseph Fantigrossi how individuals of all ages build resilience to get past the tough times in life.

“We had a great group representing a wide range of people from the Finger Lakes region,” said Lenore Friend, director of public relations and communications for FLCC. “We made a TV series to explore topics in depth. For example, advice to get counseling sounds simple, but students had a lot of questions about what that really means for people of different ages.”

Friend worked on the project with staff members Jay Gillotti, creative director and editor, and Hugh Laird, videographer. Funding for the series comes in part from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, COVID relief legislation.