Hundreds participate in Cortland’s Mental Health Walk

Local residents walk on Court Street as part of the 2018 Mental Health Walk in Cortland (Peter Blanchard/Cortland Voice)

CORTLAND, N.Y. — Hundreds participated in the annual Mental Health Walk in the city of Cortland on Wednesday.

The event is put on each year by the Cortland County Mental Health Department to increase awareness of mental health issues in the community.

Alex Huntington-Ofner, senior access coordinator for the county Mental Health Department, delivered opening remarks at United Presbyterian Church Wednesday afternoon.

“We know that illness happens, and people with mental illness can and do recover everyday,” she said.

Mark DePaull, chief of police for the SUNY Cortland University Police Department, spoke about his department’s efforts to provide training for officers who respond to mental health concerns on campus.

The efforts came in part due to an increased response in calls on campus for mental health concerns, he said.

“Our officers received basic training when they went to the police academy, but they didn’t receive anything after that,” he said.

DePaull decided to approach the International Association of the Chiefs of Police about signing up for the One Mind Campaign, which is designed to improve police response to persons affected by mental illness. The department has also been networking with mental health providers off campus.

Mayor Brian Tobin spoke about the importance of bringing awareness to the issue of mental health in the local community.

“Mental health is something we should all talk about,” Tobin said. “For us to be together today, that’s very important.”

Tobin then read off a proclamation that was passed by Cortland Common Council declaring May of 2018 to be Mental Health Month in the city of Cortland. The proclamation called upon citizens, businesses, and government entities to recommit the community to increasing awareness and understanding of mental health.

Wednesday’s event was sponsored by the Cortland County Mental Health Department and its partners: the Mental Health Association of Cortland County, Catholic Charities of Cortland County, Family Counseling Services, and Seven Valleys Health Coalition.