Amid the high temperatures in Lynchburg, mental health organizations, vendors and local law enforcement groups gathered outside of the Hunton-Randolph Community Center in Lynchburg to make one message clear: Mental health matters.
Up to 21 registered vendors came together for the first Mental Health Awareness Fair on Saturday, giving members of the community a place to learn more information about the many resources in the city for mental health.
Sharon Rose, a key face in organizing the fair, said mental health has started to become an inner-city problem, and letting people know about the resources available to them was the reason all of the vendors came together.
“Not many people know, but a mental health check up is just as important as a physical one,” Rose said, “so we just want to share information and raise awareness for the accessibility of mental health help.”
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Spread out over the backyard of the Hunton-Randolph Community Center were tents from registered vendors ready to help attendees learn more about how to get help for the problems they may be facing.
Jerry Griffin Jr., manager for the YWCA’s Amend Together program, said the program “engages middle school and high school boys … with the conversations they are probably not going to have anywhere else.”
“It was definitely an easy decision to come and bear the heat just to show the community that we’re here with them.”
Among the registered vendors were groups that assist all ages and forms of mental health needs. Groups like Amend Together, aimed at young men, pitched tents alongside groups like Horizon Behavioral Health, Patrick Henry Family Services and BrightView, all of which provide more traditional forms of services.
Representatives from Liberty University and Central Virginia Community College also were on hand, showing the diverse options available to Central Virginians.
Stacie Rhodes, who represented Liberty University at the fair, took a different approach on the issue, helping people understand the link between financial literacy and mental health.
“We have a fact over here that says problems with money can lead to increased mental health problems, specifically depression and anxiety,” she said. “So we’ve found that in a lot of our coaching, that if somebody comes in feeling some type of emotion, it’s tied to money, or something they believe about it.”
With different options available for mental health assistance, one vendor said the spotlight is finally being shined on the issue.
Tom Fraticelli, Director of Community Outreach for BrightView, said the wide range of options “goes to show that in terms of mental health, it affects all different age groups, and there are all sorts of different angles that can be approached to find help for or from.”
Among the more traditional forms of assistance, Martha Cashel, a counselor with Patrick Henry Family Services, explained the importance of the group’s “Hope for Tomorrow” counseling program.
“I’ve seen a lot of things but now there’s more suicide than before,” Cashel said. “So we have a sense of urgency. I want the public to know that they are supported and we are there for them.”
Several groups at the fair, including Patrick Henry Family Services, have the ability to step in and help people, even if individuals don’t have insurance or the means to cover issues they may be facing.
Even with a good turnout at the fair, vendors said they were excited to work with similar organizations to examine better ways the Central Virginia community can be serviced.
Lynchburg Sheriff Donald Sloan was at the event, and said, “If we can be out here, not only when people need us, but before that time, and we can provide resources, let the community know and give awareness that’s the main thing for us.
“This is a great opportunity for us to partner with other agencies and community partners to try to influence and impact their lives for the better.”