LOWVILLE — May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which signals bringing down “the walls of stigma by sharing our experiences, stories and truths,” according to the Lewis County Mental Health Awareness Committee.
“It means educating others on what mental illness really is, and helping those with illnesses know they are not alone,” the committee says.
The annual Lewis County Mental Health Awareness Walk was held May 18 following a proclamation reading and balloon release at the Lewis County Fairgrounds.
Samuel Rubenzahl, a local psychologist, spoke about the stigma surrounding mental health and pointed out that physical health does not hold the same negative connotations.
“Mental health is all the things that make us who we are including our creativity, but when we hear mental health we tend to think of the negative,” he said, adding that over his career he has seen improvement but there is more work to be done.
Lewis County Legislator Lisa Virkler read a proclamation for Mental Health Awareness Month.
Green balloons were released prior to about 55 people beginning their walk, many dressed in green, the color for mental health awareness.
Upon returning to the fairgrounds, a dinner was served for roughly 100 people and the winners of a county-wide contest were announced.
Throughout the month, businesses and residents were invited to help “paint the county green” by decorating with green decor.
Lamanda Cook, Lewis County administrative assistant and family peer advocate for NRCIL, said the event was held to raise awareness and to help combat the stigma around mental health.
“The idea is to squash stigmas as much as we can, to educate people about mental illness, and to make people aware of all of the organizations that are here to help,” she said.
Representatives of NRCIL, The ARC of Oneida Lewis, Transitional Living Services and the Lewis County Suicide Prevention Coalition attended the event.