MARION – Hope will never be silent.
‘Positive vibes only’ doesn’t exist, we’re all complex.
Decolonize and destigmatize mental health care.
These are a few of the phrases seen on signs as participants in a local mental health walk rounded the streets downtown in Marion on Saturday, June 11 to show their support for those struggling with mental health and to start conversations about mental health care.
Organized by Old Rochester Regional High School students Alia Cusolito and Emma Levasseur, the event hosted tables from different mental health resources, face paint, lawn games, and musical performances.
They also held a raffle to raise money for The Trevor Project, the Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
After the walk, Cusolito took the stage to talk about mental health in the local community. They referenced a survey taken by students in the school district from grades six through 12 about diversity, inclusion, and a sense of belonging at their school.
Statistics showed that those struggling were not alone.
“Only 39% of students responded favorably when asked, ‘How much do you matter to others at this school?’” they said.
Cusolito and Levasseur conducted their own survey to discover what resources students at Old Rochester Regional High School use for their mental health. Students responded to the survey with a call for more resources, requesting access for information on the grieving process and effective self-care skills.
Levasseur acknowledged that people who attended this event could be there for a variety of reasons, whether they are struggling with mental health, know someone who is, or just want to learn more.
“We can talk all we want about mental health, but it won’t do as much in the long run unless we actually educate others,” Levasseur has said.
“Ignorance shouldn’t be killed by tragedy, it should be addressed by education,” said Cusolito. “We’re hoping to work with our school district to make this a reality.”
Organizers raised $150 for nonprofit charity organizations that support mental health education in addition to what was raised by tabling organizations, and Cusolito said that they considered the event a success.
“I hope that we’ll be able to do it again next year,” they said.