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Youth Leadership Group hosts mental health awareness event

Daily Item - 5/9/2019

May 09-- May 9--SHAMOKIN -- The youth and young adults involved with mental health awareness and suicide prevention rally in Shamokin on Wednesday night said they hope their message was heard and will be spread.

The Northumberland County Youth Leadership hosted the Mental Health Awareness Event at the Claude Kehler Community Park in Shamokin on Wednesday evening. At least 50 people came out to the event, which coincident with the 70th year for Mental Health Awareness Month.

"I hope it reaches someone in need of help," said Felicia Reichner. "I hope it's not too late. Even if we just touch one person, we did our part."

Special guest speakers at the event included Dr. Kelly Crissman, a school counselor; Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way President/CEO Joanne Troutman; Sean Eric West, a recovering drug addict and alcoholic and a suicide survivor who is now a motivational speaker; and youth mentor Frank Rodriquez. Northumberland County Commissioners Kymberley Best and Sam Schiccatano also presented a proclamation from the county.

"Suicide is a serious health crisis that must be addressed by everyone, including physicians, mental health professionals, school districts, clergy, community members, organizations, parents friends and family members," said Crissman. "It is time we start talking about the suicide epidemic."

Three Valley students this year took their own lives: two students at Midd-West in February and one at Southern Columbia Area School District in March.

Both West and Rodriquez shared stories about their addictions. West also said he attempted suicide multiple times.

"I was killing myself spiritually from the inside out because I hated who I was," said West.

But, said West, while he still battles mental illness, he said he has a life to live, a dream to pursue and youth to inspire.

Rodriquez encouraged those in attendance not to be afraid to reach out for help. It is not a sign of weakness, he said.

Dawn Conbeer, of Coal Township, came to the event with her daughter after taking a walk through town.

"We need more of this, we definitely need more of this," she said.

The NCYL provides a supportive environment that promotes personal development by engaging in positive and constructive activities for youth to give back to their community. There are 12 students in the group from several local school districts.

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