Fair celebrates Mental Health Awareness Month

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WESTFIELD, NJ — Westfield’s Mental Health Council organized its second Walk for C.A.K.E and Mental Health Fair on Sunday, April 30, to honor and celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month in May. The acronym C.A.K.E stands for compassion, acceptance, kindness and empathy, according to the council.

The walk for C.A.K.E. included yoga, art therapy, therapy dogs for people to pet and interact with, as well as relaxation techniques. After the walk concluded, residents made their way to the Robert & Virginia Bauer Family Branch YMCA on Broad Street in Westfield to attend the fair. The fair provided resources and information from multiple organizations operating in Union County, including the Here to Help Foundation, YWCA and Imagine, A Center for Coping and Loss. The fair also provided meditation, journaling and a presentation from Cyndi Salemy, the owner of Food for Mood Functional Nutrition.

“Serotonin is a neural transmitter made in the body that is associated with happiness,” Salemy said during her presentation. “It is also the target of … antidepressants called SSRIs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. What SSRIs do is they hold serotonin in an activated state before it gets broken down and metabolized. What SSRIs do not do is make serotonin.”

Food for Mood Functional Nutrition is a customized counseling and education program that focuses on how your food intake affects your physical and mental health. Salemy offers a free 15-minute consultation to learn more about you and develop a medical plan catered directly to your needs, with a focus on food, sleep and physical play that helps to develop sustainable habits.

“The first thing that I want to know when working with clients is: are they getting enough energy? Which are just calories? Are they eating enough?” Salemy said. “I am not asking whether they are eating enough of this or that. Are they eating enough at all? Once we have accessed that, then we can focus on the fuel and performance that they are getting from protein and macronutrients.”

According to the council, their mission is to facilitate the creation of a comprehensive mental health system for the Westfield community that promotes lifelong mental wellness, educates the public, ensures access to available resources and agrees on core community values to make Westfield a stigma-free community.
There was also a performance by the Mental Health association of New Jersey’s NJ Mental Health Players, the longest-running mental health community education program, according to Lynette Sheard, director of NJMHP.

“We combine art with advocacy, using theatrical role-playing and improv to depict real-life situations related to mental health, emotional wellness, addiction and recovery,” Sheard said during her presentation. “Our belief is that everything in your life will impact your emotional well-being. Wellness is relative. There is no such thing as normal. There is only what is normal to you.”

The mission of NJMHP, similar to the council, is to increase awareness and education, decrease stigma and break the silence surrounding mental health and other taboo subjects.

“We demonstrate uncomfortable conversations related to mental health and addiction, because we want to take the words off of the page and put a heart and a face to it,” Sheard said. “When you are in a good mood, it impacts the world. When you are not in a good mood, it impacts your communication. Your mood matters so much that it impacts at least 26 people around you.”

NJMHP then demonstrated a live performance of a conversation between someone with bipolar disorder and a family member. After the performance, the audience gave feedback as to how the conversation should have been handled, what could be improved and how a solution to the situation could be reached.

The council then raffled off a cake that was baked by their members to commemorate the theme of the fair.

Photos by Javon Ross