On Saturday, Oct, 16, nearly one hundred community-minded citizens and Schreiber High School students, led by Project HELP Long Island marched for Mental Health Awareness down Main Street to the harbor. Guided safely down the street by the Port Washington Police Department and with banners waving, it was a sight to witness.
Organized by Project HELP Long Island, the March for Mental Health Awareness began at the Port Washington Train Station and culminated at the harbor bandshell. Flanked by dozens of students from the Schreiber High School Key Club, cars slowed to take in the sight and to take in the message – mental health is for everyone.
If you need help, there’s no stigma to getting it. “The need is so great. Raising mental health awareness in our communities is more important than ever,” Jeff Stone, President, Project HELP.
In addition to the Schreiber students, Project HELP was joined by CASA, the Coalition Against Substance Abuse, NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the Salvation Army. Town of North Hempstead Town Clerk Wayne Wink, Councilwoman Mariann Dalimonte, Councilwoman Viviana Russell, Port Washington Police Commissioner Angela Lawlor-Mullins, CASA Project Director Connie Bruno, Major Soo Kim of the Salvation Army, and Meagan McCart, candidate for Assemblywoman all joined in to support this important cause.
“The Project HELP march reminded me that we can change the stigma of mental health to a space for shared learning when we come together as a community pursuing in solidarity,” Major Soo Kim, Salvation Army. Kathy Levinson, vice president, Project HELP added, “We are in true mental health crisis and if just one person heard our message today, it was a success.”
Once down at the harbor bandshell, Project HELP founders Jeff Stone and Kathy Levinson, greeted the crowd and introduced the speakers. Jennifer DeSena, executive director of the Manhasset Community Coalition Against Substance Abuse spoke directly to the students about the importance of looking out for one another, seeking help and making better choices, as well as, the profound danger of fentanyl.
Later Jennifer said, “Kids spend a lot of time on their phones and what they see can hurt them and take the place of interpersonal activities that normally strengthen them. We all need to practice healthy coping skills like exercising, spending time outside, and talking with trusted friends.”
Detective Tony Guzzello of the Port Washington Police Department addressed the student listening and reminded them that if they need anything, to please reach out at school, to parents, or friend.
Ellen Ritz and president of NAMI Queens/Nassau took the microphone and related her years of experience in working with students and encouraged them to contact her for help and information.
Keith Fiveson, executive director of Work Mindfulness and author of The Mindfulness Experience: 8 Strategies to Live Life Now, demonstrated the healing power of breathing and led the crowd in breathing techniques that help to calm anxiety and create calmness.
Always a crowd-pleaser, Port Light led by Rich Akins and Patty McCormack-Atkins played great music for everyone to hear. People danced and swayed to the music.
Rounding out this successful march was free ice cream made and generously donated by Steve Edelson, owner of Smusht.
Project HELP Long Island is grateful for the continued generous support of the DeJana Family Foundation and the Manhasset-Port Washington Kiwanis Club.
Project HELP Long Island is a 501 (c) 3 foundation. If anyone would like more information or would like to make donation, contact [email protected], visit the website at www.projecthelplongisland.org or visit Faceboook.
Submitted by Kathy Levinson, Project HELP Long Island