HealthThe Examiner

Pleasantville, New Castle to Hold Walks Sunday to Help Address Mental Illness 

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Break the Hold’s Into the Light Walk last year where more than 500 people walked in Pleasantville to support mental health and suicide prevention. On Sunday, Pleasantville will hold its sixth annual walk while New Castle will be having its inaugural event.

For the last five years, the annual Into the Light Walk in Pleasantville has seen hundreds of people start walking together in the darkness at 4:30 a.m. and continue past daybreak.  

The walk symbolizes the transition from the darkness of mental illness to the light of wellness. Sponsoring the walk has been the Pleasantville-based suicide prevention organization Break the Hold (BTH). 

While this year is the sixth annual walk promoting emotional and mental well-being in Pleasantville, it is the first year for the Town of New Castle, which is calling it Break the Hold: Into the Light Sunrise Walk 2024. Both walks are scheduled for this Sunday morning from 4:30 to 6:30 a.m. 

New Castle Supervisor Victoria Tipp, who will be joining the New Castle walk, pointed out that mental health challenges are on the rise, particularly with the negative impacts of social media. 

“We must proactively raise awareness and promote healthy human connections to combat harmful effects of isolation and other stressors in our society,” Tipp said. “The Town of New Castle is proud to introduce the first Break the Hold walk in solidarity with this mission.”  

Along with the town, sponsoring New Castle’s sunrise walk are the New Castle United for Youth and BTH. 

Tipp was initially approached by Chappaqua resident Akiko Roy, who has participated in the Pleasantville walk for the last three years. 

Roy recalled how tough it was to join the walk after experiencing a difficult and personal loss. 

“I didn’t regret joining the Pleasantville walk. New Castle, like many other towns, has experienced tragedies and loss, and the grief journey can be very lonely,” Roy said. “I wanted to bring something here to Chappaqua for those people going through that difficult time.” 

A committee comprised of five of Roy’s friends reached out to town officials and several merchants for support. Posters have been placed in storefronts and LED candles have been sold as a fundraising effort. Local merchants plan to turn on the candles on Saturday night. 

Brian Halloran, the founder of Break the Hold, gave Roy’s committee BTH t-shirts for those who register for the walk and also to sell when the walk ends. 

“Without my five friends and without Brian’s help and generosity I wouldn’t have been able to do this,” said Roy. “When we wanted to create our own walk, Brian said it was a great thing to do.” 

Roy’s friends on the committee are Beatrice Hallac, Michelle Turenchalk, Stacey Saiontz, Sue MacShane and Susan Gelinas. 

Among the businesses supporting the New Castle walk are Quaker Hill Tavern, Chappaqua Hardware and The Developmental Ladder. New Castle United for Youth (NCUFY) provided the candles for those to hold on their two-hour walk. NCUFY teens will also be volunteering to help on the day of the walk. The Chappaqua School District PTA has also promoted the walk in its newsletter and has sent out e-mails to its membership about the event. 

Roy said tables promoting the New Castle walk will be at the Chappaqua Farmers Market on Saturday. Also, the Chappaqua Public Library will have a table in front of the library during the walk, where information on mental health resources will be available. 

“We are very overwhelmed with how all the organizations in the community have readily offered their support,” Roy said. 

Halloran said he was happy to help with organizing the walk in New Castle. 

“People in Chappaqua came with us last year on our walk and they wanted my help to organize a sister walk. They formed a committee and I met with them and helped set it up,” Halloran said. 

According to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, from 2011 to 2021, the rates of youth who persistently felt sad or hopeless increased from 21 percent to 29 percent for teen boys and from 36 percent to 57 percent for teen girls. The numbers of those who seriously considered suicide increased from 16 percent to 22 percent over the same period. 

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention stated suicide was the third leading cause of death for those 10 to 24 years old in New York State. Nationwide, those numbers increased significantly from 2007 to 2021, with suicide rates rising 62 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

“The number of suicides is an alarming number,” Halloran said. “We feel the need for help is growing and the openness and momentum to start the conversation is getting stronger.” 

Halloran and his family founded BTH in 2018 shortly after Halloran’s 19-year-old son, Brian, took his own life. BTH, which are also the initials of Halloran’s son, operates under the umbrella of the Mental Health Association of Westchester to support and promote programs that raise awareness for mental illness and teen suicide. Many BTH programs have been implemented in local high schools and middle schools in various communities. 

The organization also sponsors the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) program that is in the Pleasantville, Mount Pleasant, Elmsford and Scarsdale school districts, which funds certified instructors to teach the classes. DBT courses focus on mindfulness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance and coping skills. 

Recently retired, Halloran is now devoting most of his time toward BTH. He is also on the boards of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Westchester and the Westchester County Suicide Prevention Task Force. 

“Mental wellness and youth wellness and suicide prevention is our main objective,” Halloran said. “Proceeds from all our fundraising events go to social emotional learning programs we deliver to the school system’s health and physical health classes. The earlier interventions have seen great success in treating mental health disorders. We’ve improved. There hasn’t been a youth suicide in Pleasantville in six years.” 

Tipp said the walk is to show support for those going through personal grief and struggles. 

“Together, we can reduce the stigma associated with mental health challenges, promote education on suicide intervention, and honor those we lost too soon,” Tipp said. 

New Castle: Break the Hold: Into the Light Sunrise Walk 2024  
Sunday, June 9
Check-in time: 4 a.m., Robert E. Bell Middle School parking lot
Start time: 4:30 a.m., Bell Middle School (rain or shine)
Distance: Approximately one mile through downtown Chappaqua
End time: 6 a.m. at the gazebo followed by guest speakers 

Registration: Break the Hold – New Castle Sunrise Walk 

Pleasantville: 6th Annual Into The Light Walk 

Sunday, June 9 

Check-In:  4 a.m. at Pleasantville High School, 60 Romer Ave., Pleasantville. 

Start time: 4:30 a.m. at the high school. 


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