Health & Wellness

Mahopac Grad Founds Youth Nonprofit for Mental Health Support Awareness

4651c5fb6e83355aec8c_47039_.jpg
Delaina Zerafa Credits: Gabrielle Bilik
4651c5fb6e83355aec8c_47039_.jpg

MAHOPAC, N.Y.— Delaina Zerafa has struggled with mental illness and eating disorders for much of her young life. After a recent stint at a mental health treatment facility, the 19-year-old Mahopac grad began thinking of ways to raise mental health awareness for other young people. Now, she is at the helm of a newly founded nonprofit organization and attending Pace University full time. She is thriving.

Zerafa says she is feeling great these days and is excited to give back. Much of her improvement, she said, is a result of her involvement with her new organization, Strength2Survive, a nonprofit dedicated to providing peer-to-peer support for youths affected by mental illness.

“As young adults living with a history of mental illness, we have realized over the years there are few peer-to-peer led organizations in the United States,” she said. “There are many nonprofits, but little to none are run by people who have experienced what it is like to face a real-life struggle such as mental illness. We hope to inspire young adults to use their struggles for good, rather than letting them consume them.”

Sign Up for E-News

Zerafa has a team of six in place and each wears many hats. 

Back in May, she was already hosting discussions in local classrooms in an effort to reach out to young people who hesitate to get help because of the stigma often associated with mental illness. She said meeting with area youths provides her organization with an idea of what needs they can target. Now, thanks to her organization’s social media platforms, her message is reaching further than she could have imagined.

“A big part of our organization is letting people know that there is hope through other people’s stories,” she said.

Much of the Strength2Survive Facebook page is dedicated to stories of recovery shared by the group’s followers. They share their stories, anonymously if they prefer, in up to 10 sentences and use the hashtag, #RealLifeREcovery. Zerafa said they have received stories from people as far away as Michigan.

“It’s important for people to see that people really are living in recovery and it’s not just a myth,” Zerafa said. “Real-life recovery is a thing and in order to get there it’s a lot of hard work. But it is possible to get there, so that’s what we’re basing a lot of our work in the future on.”

Zerfara wants to have meetings, starting as soon as January, and anticipate the distance radius and extend up to an hour’s drive for anyone who wishes to come.

“It’s important because no one wants to feel alone,” she said. “When people don’t talk about things they’re obviously going to feel alone. It’s important to spread awareness of things like this because it’s a very taboo topic.”

Last May, Zerafa was slated to be the subject of a documentary that shared her story and her progress; now she does not want to be the focus. She would rather the film highlight two or three people in different places along their roads to recovery.

“We changed up the plan,” she said. “There’s such a wide variety of people who struggle. It’s not just one group.”

Zerafa said that to raise awareness and support for Strength2Survive, they are planning a gala for March where they will screen the documentary. Additionally, Zerafa, who has been going on the Warped Tour (a festival of alt-rock shows) for the past four years, said that every year the festival chooses nonprofits to travel with them and she applied for Strength2Survive to be one of them.

“I did my research ad they reach almost a million people through that tour,” she said, adding that she is still waiting to hear back.

Zerafa is studying mental health counseling and psychology in a five-year master’s program at Pace University. She is also taking business classes to support her goals of continuing to manage Strength2Survive.

“It’s a lot to handle but I feel like the organization did a lot to help my recovery,” she said. “Helping others always helped me.”

Zerafa said Strength2Survive is looking for people to join its street team to host small scale events. For more information or to support Strenght2Survive, visit http://www.strength2survive.net. Find them on Facebook to see recovery stories or email them at Strength2Survive16@gmail.com.

Zerafa said she wants area residents to understand that this is a community-oriented organization and feedback is encouraged.

“I think it’s definitely important for the community to get involved,” she said. “If people have opinions we want to hear them. Everyone struggles with something, whether it’s schoolwork or mental illness—everyone struggles and it’s OK to get support for it.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Mahopac

The DACA Dilemma and the Trick of the Trickle-Down Theory

Here is our very own Sen. Charles Schumer on the Senate floor last week: “President Trump has stood in the way of a bipartisan solution to DACA, a problem he created in the first place, and yet the president is in this dream world. He thinks, ‘Oh, I can blame Democrats for the impasse.’ As I said, only in the 1984 world where up is down and black is white could this be true.

Cuomo’s Frivolous Lawsuits Cost Us Money

Since Donald Trump became president, New York State has filed more than 100 lawsuits against the federal government. This includes those filed by both Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. It does not include lawsuits filed by the City of New York. Most of them are political in nature, filed to please the plaintiffs’ voting base. In the real world, if we had filed ...

Big Brother Comes to Mahopac

High-tech, government-controlled, eavesdropping devices—listening and watching and prying into our everyday lives—are becoming pervasive. They are being positioned on the streets and highways we travel and they can be programmed to enter our homes and workplaces through the lenses and microphones of the PCs and smartphones we use.    

Of growing concern is the ...

Beautiful, 'Clean' Coal

After completing his first full year in office—an alarming year, at that— Donald Trump has concluded that climate change is not a significant national threat and that the sacred lands and waters of this country should be sold to the highest bidder. 

The Trump administration has withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement; deregulated national landmarks; freed public lands for ...

I Love 'I Hate Hamlet'

Let’s face it, folks. Not everyone loves Shakespeare. Not even all actors. Andrew Rally is one of them. In fact, where there’s a Will, there’s a way Andrew will find to avoid acting in one of those famously timeless plays. And for good reason. Shakespeare tests, to the fullest, an actor’s mettle, and Andrew is strictly a TV actor.

He has just ended a star turn in the ...

A Trip to the 'Liberry'

Raise your hand if you didn’t—did not—call the library the “liberry” when you were little. I’m guessing not a lot of hands just went up.

Didn’t just about all of us say “liberry” when we were learning to read? (Well, whaddya expect when a place is named something way too easy for little kids to mispronounce?)

OK. Now, raise your hand if ...

I Am Woman, Hair Me Roar

When you have short hair, it is inevitable that you will spend an inordinate amount of time growing your hair out and then getting fed up and cutting it again. I have been down this hair-brained road several dozen times before, complaining for months until I am convinced my husband is going to cut it all off while I sleep just so he doesn’t have to listen to me whine about it one more ...

I'm Mrs. Heat Miser

To be perfectly honest, I did not need a large rodent with insomnia to convince me that we had six more weeks of winter. It’s been so cold outside lately that when I go out, my nostrils stick together. The dog is so hesitant to go out that he does his business right on the deck, less than five feet from the door, and then gives me a look of contemptuous indignation when he comes back in the ...

Upcoming Events

Wed, February 28, 6:00 PM

Putnam County Department of Health, Brewster

Freedom from Smoking

Health & Wellness

Thu, March 1, 7:00 PM

Kennedy Catholic High School, Somers

The Kennedy Catholic High School Players ...

Arts & Entertainment Other Religions And Spirituality

Fri, March 2, 7:00 PM

Kennedy Catholic High School, Somers

The Kennedy Catholic High School Players ...

Arts & Entertainment Other Religions And Spirituality

Bazzo Needs to Get His Facts Straight

February 15, 2018

To the editor,

Once again Mr. Bazzo, in his Feb. 8, column cherry picks facts, ignores other facts, passes along lies and spins so fast to the right that it’s amazing he doesn’t drill himself into the earth.

Bazzo is correct—the economy is doing well, and we should give credit where credit is due. Thank you, President Obama for taking the economy from the brink of another ...

Artworks by Maria Angeles Hegglin at the Somers Library

February 23, 2018

Art Works by Maria Angeles Hegglin at the Somers Library
On display 2/20 - 3/31 

Maria Angeles Hegglin is a self-taught neo-impressionist born in Cordoba, Spain and now living in New York. Her oils on canvas present an idyllic sun-splashed vision of the world. She is a landscape painter whose work is notable for its subtle colors and tactile surfaces that she accomplishes with a palette ...