About 1,000 people walked through the streets of Pleasantville just before sunrise on Sunday to bring hope to youths and their families who face the complexities and uncertainties of mental illness.
The inaugural Into the Light Walk, sponsored by the Break the Hold Foundation, stepped off from Pleasantville High School at 4:30 a.m. and followed a 2.5-mile route as participants carried candles and remembered a Pleasantville teen who committed suicide earlier this year.
“I just want to honor the memory of my friend and make sure this never happens again,” Pleasantville alum Adrianna Fuccillo said. “It just shows how close we are as a community the fact that we all support each other.”
Brian Halloran was a 19-year-old freshman at the University of South Carolina when he took his own life on Jan. 23. After the tragedy, his parents, Brian and Jolina Halloran, established the Break the Hold Foundation in honor of their late son to educate the community on mental illness and advocate for those who suffer.
Following the walk, participants congregated at the high school where they erupted into a round of applause. Brian Halloran thanked the community for their ongoing support and for encouraging people to talk about their most pressing issues. He stressed the importance of showing kindness and recognizing the warning signs that could arise for a friend in need.
“We want people to be able to talk, we want to open the conversation and increase the dialogue,” Halloran said. “We want connectivity. We want to have people feel comfortable coming up and talking to someone. Each and every day I cry for my son, but I do see the light and that was the idea for the walk.”
Another Pleasantville alum, Terry Singletary, shared how he struggled with mental illness. He explained that tough times, pain and suffering is temporary when you ask for help. While he waited nearly 15 years before seeking help, he said he sought comfort in religion and felt himself emerge from the darkness.
Singletary said his life has improved and he hasn’t experienced bad days in almost six years because he realized he had support when needed. While pain can often feel infinite, he stressed there’s always hope and someone close by to help create a path to a healthy solution.
“When I say hang on, pain ends, the pain ends when we ask for help. We’re only as sick as our secrets,” Singletary said. “One of the hardest things to do and the most courageous things you can do is ask for help. I’m not saying it’s easy, but that’s the solution.”
Brendan Halloran, Brian’s older brother, said he intends to speak about his feelings related to his family’s struggles and hopes to create a broader dialogue. He noted how many people rush to someone’s aid when they hear of a cancer diagnosis or other physical illness or injury. However, the person suffering from depression is often shunned.
“That’s a huge problem. That’s a big, big problem. Plain and simple,” Brendan Halloran said. “In our society that just needs to change.”
Brian Halloran added that the large turnout for the walk was greatly appreciated, providing his family with the strength to move forward to ensure every family receives the proper help and guidance needed should a loved one suffer from mental illness.
Funds raised from the event will be used to provide resources and educational programming on mental wellness to high school youth and parents in the community. A scholarship will also be established in Brian Halloran’s name and will be given to a graduating Pleasantville senior who demonstrates a commitment, passion and volunteerism for mental health advocacy.
“I don’t want anything bad happening to anybody’s family like what happened to our family,” Brian Halloran said. “I care about everybody here and I do not want anyone to suffer the way that we have.”
For more information on the Break the Hold Foundation or to donate, visit www.bthfoundation.org.