Color Run Brightens Up Serious Subject

Runners got a splash of color at different stations along the one-mile route. (Photo by Chris Lundy)

  BERKELEY – It’s a subject most people don’t want to talk about: mental health. It can be a sad and scary place, made worse by how our society treats “crazy” people and tells them they are weak if they ask for help.

  The only way to deal with a dark subject is to shine light on it. Educate. Take away the stigma.

  That’s why Veterans Park in Bayville was alive with a Color Run on a brilliant Saturday morning. Participants trekked a one-mile course around the park, mostly walking. As they passed stations, they were blasted with color.

  This served as a fundraiser for a variety of mental health programs, said Michelle Price, director of the Ocean County office for the Mental Health Association in New Jersey.

  There are a number of services available, to treat such things as substance addiction, hoarding, and more, she said. They also hold a Golden Peer Outreach Support Team for 65 and older clients.

Activities for kids included making slime and doing crafts. (Photo by Chris Lundy)

  There were more than 80 pre-registrants for the event, but since people could sign up the day of the run, there were likely many more, she said.

  The statewide nonprofit hosts peer-based mentoring where clients meet with individuals who have lived experience with mental health challenges. They can offer a knowing ear to listen and help people set goals. There are also support groups that take place in person and virtually. The virtual ones started during the pandemic but has proved popular enough to continue. It helps people who are dealing with anxiety or physical limitations who might not find it easy to go someplace for the session.

  Linda K. gave an example of what one of the programs is like from both sides. She was a client, and believed in it so much that she now offers peer counseling. It wasn’t easy. She went through 500 hours volunteering to be certified by the state.

  She spends time with a few different groups in relaxed environments, and everything comes out of socialization. Sometimes, there’s a subject, like “What do you do when people ask if you’re OK and you’re not OK?” Sometimes, you let the group lead the discussion and see where it goes. You find out what their concerns are.

Photo by Chris Lundy

  “The people are great,” she said. “They really are great.”

  It was this positivity that came through during the event. There was upbeat music, lots of color and laughter. Tables were set up offering support services. Kids could make slime or do crafts. Doing this work was truly heroic, and some were dressed in capes and masks to prove it.

  Racheal O’Dea, the deputy chief operating officer for the Mental Health Association of NJ, said that people have a variety of needs. You can’t have a one-size-fits-all approach. That’s why they first determine what needs someone has and then craft an approach that caters to that person.

Photo by Chris Lundy

  “We understand that everybody’s journey and recovery is individual. Only the individual can define what that means,” she said.

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