Healthy Start, CAN, family wellness fest, mental health awareness
Organizers await visitors with information on mental health programs and resources.

As the summer weather  sets in, there are a plethora of activities for families in and around the Brooklyn area.  While most offer fun, games and opportunities to get out of the house, Healthy Start Community Action Network takes healthy family fun to a new level.  In early May, this Brooklyn based initiative hosted their first Family Wellness Fest that purposefully took place in the middle of May, which is also known as Mental Health Awareness Month.

CAN, healthy start, family wellness fest
Mary Powel, Dr. Easterling, Latrice Walker, Eric Adams and Brandi Howard of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

“We as a collective- Healthy Start Brooklyn – we put on our first annual Wellness Fest, an event to really get the community involved in thinking about wellness, in terms of mental health and even physical health,” Keston Jones told the Brooklyn Reader.

“What do we need to do? What are some of the steps we can take to alleviate some of those stresses?  Here we’re providing community members with access to organizations that can provide relief and services right here all under one roof,”

While the focus of the event was to bring families together for a free and fun afternoon the guest speakers and the neighborhood resources created a network of individuals who were promoting a positive lifestyle change.  The family fest was held at 400 Rockaway Ave in a gorgeous naturally lit building owned by Power of Two.

In between the speakers, the Zumba class, and the presentations, Brandi Howard from the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene had a chance to speak with the Brooklyn Reader about the turnout.

“This space is owned by a partner of ours, Power of Two.  This is the very first wellness fest the Community Action Network has hosted and it’s really about bringing to the tools to the community so that they can learn how to manage their mental health and wellbeing in addition to their daily health routine,” Howard explains.

According to the statistics that mental health advocates report, there is no better time to address the mental health awareness in minority based neighborhoods.  In a study reported by US HHS Office of Minority Health, adult African Americans are 20 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than their adult white counterparts.

In addition, adult African Americans who are living below the poverty line are two to three times more likely to report serious psychological distress.  For those who can’t afford traditional treatment, programs like Healthy Start are creating opportunities to give men and women the resources to create positive mental health habits.

Healthy Start, CAN, family wellness fest, mental health awareness
Guests and organizers enjoy Zumba at the Family Wellness Fest

“It’s about going outside.  Today we went outside and did Zumba together.  We also came into the healing room here, a peacefully designed room were men can speak about whatever they need to talk about in their own sacred space.  We also had an area where kids could do art therapy so you can see this is wide range of everyday things that we do and the tools that we use to decompress.” Howard explains as she tours the different stations around the Healthy Start Family Wellness Fest.

The fest hosted two Zumba sessions that allowed over 25 eager participants to come together for exercise in a beautiful Brooklyn space.  With calming natural light, a Dj booth producing upbeat music and a community energy that bound participants together, the fest turned into a uniting event.  In addition to the physical activities, there were organizations on site that took information from participants to enroll them in a wide range of opportunities that all aim to promote family health.

The Healthy Start Brooklyn team admits that their long-term goals revolves around creating this type of family friendly gathering every May.    Over time they hope to establish a well defined group of tangible resources geared toward positive mental health that community members can access easily.

Chanel Alli

Chanel is a dynamic standup comic and writer based out of Brooklyn, NY. Her commanding writing style and story-teller style allow her to cover a plethora of topics with a unique flare.

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