The Bayonne Interfaith Clergy Association is partnering with the city of Bayonne to host a series of mental health awareness events in 16th Street Park. The inaugural series kicked off last summer as residents sought some normalcy amid the relief in COVID-19 restrictions.
In an interview with the Bayonne Community News, Rev. Dorothy Patterson of Wallace Temple AME Zion Church described how important these types of events are, now more than ever.
Promoting mental health awareness
“We’re still sticking with the underlying theme of mental health awareness,” Patterson said. “That piece is important. You can’t let that go. It’s just too big. We see it every single day.”
Seeing the need for more mental health awareness, Patterson said the Bayonne Interfaith Clergy Association decided to again hold the event series. The first event will focus on sharing knowledge as well as promoting awareness.
“So what we’re doing is providing resources centered around mental health awareness,” she said.
This event will provide residents with resources and information about mental health, as well as some free sweet treats, on June 30 at 6:30 p.m. at 16th Street Park. Patterson said that there are a number of organizations in Bayonne and some that operate countywide that are going to be in attendance.
“We’re going to have at least 20 different organizations there just for people to be able to come out and get free information,” she said. “We’ll probably have free ice cream, as well that we’ll be giving out because it’s probably going to be a hot day in June.”
Movie showing in July
Following a similar format as last year, Patterson said the second event will be a movie showing in the park next month. Residents can gather to watch “Encanto” at about 7:30 p.m. on July 28 at 16th Street Park or when the sun has set so as to see the movie outside.
“Then we’ll come back in July and we’ll be doing a movie,” Patterson said. “The underlying theme is still [mental health awareness].”
Patterson added that there will be a presentation before the movie starts, possibly something related to school safety. In the wake the Uvalde school shooting among other issues at schools, the topic is highly relevant.
“Based on everything that’s going on, we may do something on that, maybe a thirty minute segment, and then we’ll go into the movie,” she said.
Similar mental health resources will also be available at the second event. According to Patterson, the goal of the movie showing is also is to promote awareness about mental health.
“I can’t say enough about the importance of being aware of what’s going on in terms of their own personal mental health,” she said.
Part of being aware means engaging in self-care, striving to be mentally healthier, and looking past the stigmas surrounding mental health and getting treatment, according to Patterson.
Breaking the stigma
Sometimes, the stigma around mental illness and getting help is enough to prevent people from getting treatment. That is something Patterson is looking to tackle as well.
“These stigmas become a hindrance and walls that are built up do not allow us to be the healthier person that we can be,” she said. “They are a hindrance to get counseling.“
According to Patterson, she and many of her colleagues have a counselor, which is an important part of maintaining good mental health.
“Something that we really want to get out is having a counselor, someone that you can come and talk to about whatever situations or challenges that may be going on in your life,” she said. “Going through these last two years, it has definitely made the situation even worse because you’ve grief on top of grief on top of grief… I don’t have all the answers, but what I do say to individuals all the time is come seek help. There are agencies, there are counseling centers, there are people that are available in this town that are able to help. Sometimes people just need someone to listen to them. This is what counselors do.”
Patterson reiterated that there has never been a more important time for mental health awareness, thus the event series was continued again this year. And more events will likely be announced for the following months.
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