LIVINGSTON, NJ — As mental health becomes an increasingly prominent issue amid the pandemic, Livingston resident Jason Shapiro is currently donating 100 percent of the proceeds from his memoir, “The Magic of Mayfair,” to the SameHere Global Mental Health Movement, a mental health nonprofit that is close to his heart.

Shapiro, who also recently published his first children's book, describes his memoir as a “semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story of childhood friendships and adult regrets.” As the story seeks to “help normalize conversation about mental health,” Shapiro has selected SameHere as the beneficiary of all proceeds through the end of the year.

“I want to encourage people to not be afraid to share when times are tough,” said Shapiro, adding that a song sharing the same name, written and recorded by his childhood friend Ira Rosoff, is also being used to spread the same message. “Talking about it can sometimes be the best therapy. Ultimately, my goal is to help normalize conversation about mental health and make it part of our everyday conversation.”

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Sharing that his younger brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1998, that his best friend took his own life in 2006, and that his father was in a fatal car crash in 2013, Shapiro explained that writing quickly became a mechanism for him to deal with these traumatic experiences when he discovered a passion for it later in life.

“Something triggered inside me to begin writing,” said Shapiro, who only began writing in 2017. “I was never a writer, but it helped to express my creative side and bring me the peace I was searching for.”

Wanting others to understand that mental illnesses should be accepted similarly to physical illnesses rather than being stigmatized, Shapiro teamed up with Eric Kussin, founder and chief operating officer of SameHere, to help him further this mission.

“Eric’s organization is working hard to change the narrative when it comes to people speaking openly about mental health,” said Shapiro. “His organization is working to normalize society’s perception of mental health.”

Shapiro, a father of two, also recently published his first children’s book, “Brian, My Pet Lion,” which he read to Livingston students during a Zoom conference earlier this month, and has six other children’s book manuscripts in the works.

“I write children's books in general because I am inspired by what my kids say and how they react to situations,” said Shapiro, noting that this first book was inspired by his son’s journey to overcome a fear of cats. “I find that there are life lessons in the way kids behave that I can capture and share with others.”

He also noted that a highlight of his writing career thus far was having NFL running back and Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams help promote “Brian, My Pet Lion,” stating that Williams is a personal hero of his.

“It’s a story about overcoming anxiety and fear through the eyes of a child,” he said. “Ricky struggled with and worked through his own severe social anxiety issues while playing in the NFL.”

Due to be published in the spring of 2021 is “The Magnificent Mind of Ostaf,” which Shapiro describes as a “realistic fiction novella” that “celebrates the misfits and dreamers whose passions and ideas make the world a better place.”

In another draft, Shapiro is working a story about meeting his deceased father for a final lunch, where Shapiro asks all the questions he never got to ask and tells his father all the things he wished he had told his father while he was still alive. Shapiro was enthusiastic about a special twist he has in mind for the ending, but also shared that this particular book has been “very therapeutic for [him] to write.”

“My books all have a common theme,” he said. “We all go through life challenges. The specifics may be different, but the heartache and trauma is similar.”

Shapiro, his wife and their two children, ages 12 and 10, relocated to Livingston from Florida in 2013. Although he enjoys his professional career as a corporate operations manager, Shapiro said he has thoroughly enjoyed his new roles as a published author and advocate for mental health normalization.

CLICK HERE for a preview or additional details of “The Magic of Mayfair.”

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