Catholic Charities shines a light on mental health

For many individuals struggling with mental health issues in the community, the Counseling Services Program of Catholic Charities Palm Beach is a light in the darkness—literally. For the past three years, the Counseling Services Program has hosted a 5k Glow Run at Mirasol Park in Palm Beach Gardens, where experienced runners, walkers and children of all ages deck themselves out in glow-in-the-dark accessories and costumes to raise awareness for mental health wellness.

 “A component of strong mental health is having strong physical health. Regular exercise is important for everyone to maintain mental wellness. That’s why the idea of a run is an ideal fundraiser for the Counseling Services Program as it supports our mission for mental wellness,” said Nicole Looney, director of clinical services for Catholic Charities Palm Beach.

Proceeds from the run go towards the Counseling Services Program, particularly to those who don’t have access to regular mental health care or can’t afford the services. Through a team of professional therapists, the program addresses issues such as marital/relationship discord, child and family dynamics, depression, loneliness, outpatient level addiction recovery, grief and loss, anxiety, stressful relationships, child and adolescent problems and other life stressors. Currently, there are seven Counseling Services Program locations ranging from Stuart to Pahokee.

This year’s Glow Run, which took place on September 7, featured a 100-yard Kid’s Dash. Children of all ability levels were welcomed to participate in the dash as a way to engage young children in mental health awareness. Leana Brown, who is a new volunteer counselor with the program, expressed that mental health development begins prenatally. “When an expectant mother is stressed or has experienced trauma while pregnant, hormones that affect mental stability flow from the mother to her unborn child, affecting the baby in the long run.”

Lourdes Contreras, also a new volunteer counselor with the program, noted that an emphasis on family is key to anyone dealing with mental health issues. “It’s so great to see so many families at the run tonight. Family is a support system we all need in maintaining strong mental health. On top of that, physical exercise is a great coping mechanism for stress and a boost for self-esteem.”

For one family at the 5k Glow Run, mental health hits close to home. Al Rabil, a founding board member of the Headstrong Project and resident of Palm Beach, joined the run with his family to support mental health awareness in armed force veterans. Founded in 2012 in conjunction with Weill Cornell Medical College, the Headstrong Project has served over 1,200 veterans to regain their mental health through a comprehensive treatment program for post 9/11 veterans dealing with PTSD, sexual trauma, anxiety and depression, grief and loss, addiction, anger management and more. The nonprofit organization provides veterans with cost-free assistance through experienced clinicians and individualized care.

Rabil’s wife, Tamara, spoke on behalf of her family that “veterans have done so much for our country, and donating to local counseling services through the Glow Run is our way of helping veterans in our community.”

In addition to a focus on mental health awareness, Catholic Charities Palm Beach also kept in mind the victims of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. Cod and Capers Seafood in North Palm Beach partnered with Catholic Charities to set up a station for donations at the run. Grant Gyland and Jessica Zabel, owners of the seafood company, collected almost two truckloads of construction materials, first aid supplies and hygiene products. “We plan to send these donations to the Bahamas through a friend who has his own boat and is working with local authorities on proper distribution. It’s amazing to see how the community has rallied to do good for the Bahamas,” said Gyland.

To learn more about Catholic Charities Palm Beach counseling services program, visit catholiccharitiesdpb.org/counseling-services. Follow the results of the run and more charitable events on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter through @CatholicCharitiesPB.