Celebrate Mental Health Month in Tompkins!

Rock and R&B bands strumming and singing, a pop DJ spinning hit tunes, a juggler who thrills, music and writing workshops, nature walks, story times and face painting for kids, yoga classes, pickleball matches and frisbee tossing, street food and ice cream dished up for free—it’s all happening at Stewart Park on Saturday May 13 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Neo Project Will Perform at Better Together for Mental Health May 13

“Better Together for Mental Health,” inviting the public to celebrate National Mental Health Awareness Month, is the effort of more than a dozen community stakeholders supported by local musicians, artists, mental health practitioners, volunteers, and sponsors.

Besides the festival’s fun and games, local mental health organizations will be on hand to provide wellness tips and information on how and where to get help for those struggling with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and other challenges.

“The last few years have shown us that there is so much strength in our community, but also so much need for additional support,” said event organizer Josiah Jacobus-Parker, director of development at Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca.

“More people than ever are talking openly about their mental health—which is great!—but there are still so many people who are struggling with mental wellness on their own. We loved the idea of having a day where anyone in the community could come and learn from real mental health professionals about how to better support themselves, and learn about the incredible array of resources to be found here in Tompkins County.”

Mark Maynard, frontman of the Jerry Garcia-inspired band Scuba Jerry, will perform from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the R&B dance band Neo Project will take over the stage from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Evo Evolution will DJ music for kids, and acoustic musicians will play their instruments around the park. Street performer Nate the Great will dazzle with his juggling act, and maybe even do a little fire-breathing.

Mark Maynard, frontman for Scuba Jerry

Story House Ithaca will put up a Mental Health Heroes Tribute Wall, where anyone can post the names of people who have helped them, and another wall where people can post notes describing “One Thing I Do to Feel Better.”

“Nature Rx” advocate Don Rakow will take attendees on a forest therapy trek; Amber Smith of the Family Reading Partnership will lead young children on a Story Walk and leave them with free copies of Breathe, written by Becky Hemsley and illustrated by Siski Kalla.

Mark Cox of FreeVoice along with Elisa Sciscoli Keeler and Ephemera will host a workshop on Music as Medicine that includes breath work and singing. Cindy Overstreet will lead a workshop on “empowered calm through mindful motion.” Lee-Ellen Marvin will share traditional stories for kids and lead a workshop on storytelling for caregivers.

Erin Durkin of Family & Children’s Service will lead an activity on ageism and senior mental health care, and a trainer from Cayuga Addiction Recovery Services will demonstrate the use of Narcan/fentanyl strips.

Nate the Great

Attendees can help themselves to snacks provided by Luna Inspired Street Food, On the Street Pitas, Meg-a-Moo’s Ice Cream, and Purity Ice Cream.

DOWNLOAD: Mental Health Support and Crisis Services Tompkins County

“We aim to focus on uniting the community through advocacy events that exercise physical and mental health, continually striving to end the stigma for all, ” said Michelle Eells, of Health and Unity for Greg (HUG), an event organizer. “We believe being the CEO of your mind and mentally aware through meditation, walking outside, yoga, listening to music, and so much more, is imperative on a daily basis.”

Sandy True is another event organizer and longtime mental health advocate. “No one escapes mental health challenges, and I am so proud that our community has so many resources and wonderful professionals who are able to help,” she said. “Please prioritize your own mental well being and help others who need you to recognize that they are struggling. We truly are ‘better together.’”

True recalled her own experience with postpartum depression. “I know how much we need to reach out for help during those dark times,” she said. “I was unable to understand what was happening or ask for help. But my mother-in-law, as a social worker, recognized the signs and got me some help. I will be forever indebted to her for saving me and ultimately my family.”

Better Together organizers include: Racker, Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca, Advocacy Center of Tompkins County, Mental Health Association in Tompkins County, Story House Ithaca, Health and Unity for Greg, The Sophie Fund, Tompkins County Youth Services Department, FreeVoice, Mama’s Comfort Camp, Tompkins Learning Partners, Community Foundation of Tompkins County, and Don Manuel Presents.

“Challenges brought on by the pandemic together with broader issues facing our society today are driving increased needs for mental health support for everyone,” said Greg Hartz, president of Tompkins Trust Co., one of the event’s sponsors.

“Tompkins is pleased to support Better Together in an effort to continue to raise awareness about the importance of taking care of our mental health. Thank you to all of our mental health professionals for all you do!”

Other sponsors include Health and Unity for Greg, Johnson & Johnson Services, Sciarabba Walker & Co., The Sophie Fund, True Insurance, Kinney Drugs, Northwestern Mutual, and Warren Real Estate.

“I’m glad to help sponsor an event where a goal is to publicize the many available mental health supports in the community,” said Jay True, president and owner of True Insurance.

Agreed Andrew Hart, Sciarabba Walker’s marketing director: “Mental health is the cornerstone of a healthy community. Sciarabba Walker is proud to sponsor this impactful event to help provide some fun ways to strengthen our collective well-being.”

Click here for more information about Better Together for Mental Health