A 2.5-mile walk at 4:30 a.m. is a ghastly time to start an event on a Sunday morning. Yet, last year about 1,000 participants who turned out for the inaugural Into the Light Walk.
That highlights the level of support that Pleasantville residents Brian and Jolina Halloran have received from the community since their 19-year-old son, Brian, took his own life in January 2018.
The second Into the Light Walk to raise awareness for mental illness is set for this Sunday morning. Brian Halloran is hopeful that turnout will be comparable to last year’s event.
Regardless of how many participants show up, the impact that Break the Hold which the Hallorans founded after their son’s death, is having in the community and throughout Westchester is unmistakable.
“Part of the idea behind the walk is to raise awareness, bring the community together and to fight against the stigma of mental health challenges and also bring a positive to the community to fight back against the negative trend of mental health issues and suicide,” Brian Halloran said.
The foundation provides a resource for those with mental health issues and their friends and family with its team of clinicians who work pro bono. It is geared mainly to serve young people 10 to 24 years old.
Break the Hold is also partnering with the Pleasantville School District to work with students on coping skills and teachers and staff to recognize the warning signs and how to deal with a youngster who may need help, Halloran said.
The training uses an evidence-based approach called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which provides students with skills to manage painful emotions, particularly for those with various mental health disorders. Break the Hold is sponsoring DBT training at Pleasantville High School for the upcoming school year.
Halloran said staff in all three schools will receive eight hours of training in four two-hour workshops. Children as young as fifth grade in Pleasantville will eventually go through the program so they are equipped to handle the escalating pressures at an earlier age and be prepared as they move through middle school and high school, he said.
“So getting this in the school system will allow kids like my son to identify his challenges or his issues earlier on and we may be able to get resources and help and therapy at an earlier age,” Halloran said.
Jolina Halloran said that some of their son’s friends confided in them that as early as seventh grade they noticed a change in Brian but neither he nor his friends could effectively identify or communicate what was happening, she said.
“So the reason we want to start younger is that kids don’t know what they’re feeling,” she said. “They don’t have the verbiage. So we want to give them the words and the identification skills and then the important thing is to recognize it because when he returned to college for the first few days, his roommates and friends said (they) could tell something was wrong.”
Brian Halloran said the organization is in contact with Alexander Hamilton High School in Elmsford and White Plains High School to bring similar training to those schools. He’s hopeful that the program will continue to expand.
Same-day registration for this Sunday’s Into the Light Walk begins at 4 a.m. at Pleasantville High School. The walk starts a half-hour later and returns to the school at about 6:30 a.m. All walkers will receive a light breakfast. The first 500 registrants are guaranteed a t-shirt.
Participants 13 and up pay $32.63 while those 12 and under walk for $11.58. The amount includes all service fees.
For more information and to register for the walk, visit www.racemenu.com/bth.