Region to shed light on mental health

Commissioners proclaimed May as Mental Health Awareness Month in Centre County, but events highlighting the need for awareness are already underway.

While the proclamation officially kicks the month off, Skills of Central Pa. CEO Wendy Pardee said, Skills has already partnered with the Downtown State College Improvement District for a family-friendly event downtown slated for this Friday.

Featuring music and other family events, she said, the event will feature a walk around downtown scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. outside the Fraser Street garage. The walk will tour the downtown, through South Allen Street, East College Avenue and East Beaver Avenue, as 40 businesses display stopwatch-shaped placards decorated by individuals affiliated with mental health organizations in the area.

“When we started off, we thought we could get 20 businesses to participate,” she said. “We had an overwhelming amount of support for the endeavor. It’s been amazing.”

She said also how grateful she was to commissioners and the community for embracing the issue and helping the cause of mental health to move forward. She also jokingly promised great weather for the walk.

With Pardee was Jana Marie Foundation President Marisa Vicere Brown, who told commissioners about the foundation’s Stompers Project, which gathered old sneakers from around the community, turning them into 6-foot-tall sculptures representing different aspects of mental health.

Two of the four sculptures have already been revealed, she said — one will reside at the Schlow Centre Region Library until Sunday when it will move to the Rhoneymeade sculpture garden, while one sits in the Park Forest Elementary School.

The third will be unveiled Wednesday at the Delta Program school in State College, she said, while the fourth will be revealed during a candlelight vigil slated for May 20 by the State College Municipal Building.

“The sculptures are created in different shapes and painted by people in the Stompers Project,” she said. “They’re designed to break down barriers and stomp out the stigma of mental health.”

Apart from the activities of Skills and the Jana Marie Foundation, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County is also focusing on mental health with a viewing of the film “Call Me Crazy” Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The film consists of five short stories involving five separate characters each dealing with their own mental issues, a news release said.

The film’s primary message is enlightenment, the release said.

“If we get one person to seek help, if we get one family to open their doors to a person who’s afflicted and offer them solace and help, then we’ve done our job,” actress Octavia Spencer, who stars in the film, said.