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Engaging the Community About Mental Health

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Recently Kevin Price, Host of the nationally syndicated Price of Business Show, welcomed Paul Vecchione to provide another commentary in a series.

The Paul Vecchione Commentaries

Thankfully, it’s becoming less and less apparent that mental health and addiction are issues that have long been overshadowed by stigma and misunderstanding. This silence is particularly harmful to men, who often feel societal pressure to suppress their emotions and present a facade of unwavering strength. The importance of normalizing conversations about mental health and addiction cannot be overstated, so let’s get to it.

The challenges men face in dealing with mental health issues are unique and deeply ingrained in societal norms. Traditional notions of masculinity often discourage men from expressing vulnerability or seeking help, leading to a dangerous cycle of silence and suppression. The statistics are alarming: men are far more likely to die by suicide than women, with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reporting that men died by suicide at a rate nearly four times higher than women in 2019. This stark disparity highlights the urgent need to address mental health openly and without stigma.

Compounding the issue is the stigma surrounding addiction. Addiction is often misunderstood as a moral failing rather than a complex condition influenced by genetic, psychological, and social factors. This misconception can prevent individuals from seeking the help they need, further exacerbating their struggles. For men, who already face societal pressure to appear invulnerable, the added shame associated with addiction can be particularly crippling.

Creating an environment where men feel safe to express their emotions and seek support is crucial. Normalizing mental health conversations can help dismantle the barriers that prevent men from prioritizing their well-being. This cultural shift requires collective effort from all sectors of society, including community organizations, healthcare providers, and individuals.

 Long Island P.R.E.P., a substance abuse prevention and mental health awareness organization, took a significant step in this direction with their impactful event this past May, showcasing the power of community engagement and dialogue.

 Their “Night Of Inspiration” Mental Health Matters Gala this past May was a testament to the positive change that can occur when a community comes together. With inspiring speakers and honorees, the event provided a platform for sharing personal stories of struggle and recovery, fostering an atmosphere of openness and understanding. Such community engagement is vital in breaking down stigma and creating a supportive environment.

The speakers at the Long Island P.R.E.P. event shared their personal journeys, offering hope and practical advice for those facing similar challenges. These stories resonate deeply, humanizing the experience of mental illness and addiction, and demonstrating that recovery is possible. The honorees, recognized for their contributions to mental health and addiction awareness, serve as role models, illustrating the profound impact of advocacy and support.

Community events like those organized by Long Island P.R.E.P. are essential in spreading awareness and fostering dialogue. However, these efforts must be sustained and expanded. It is not enough to have a single event; continuous engagement and education are necessary to effect lasting change. Schools, workplaces, and social groups should all be involved in promoting mental health awareness and supporting those struggling with addiction.

Individuals and communities can contribute to this cause in several ways. First, we must challenge the stigma associated with mental health and addiction. This involves educating ourselves and others about the realities of these issues and speaking out against harmful stereotypes. Supporting local organizations who specialize in this work is a start. 

Encouraging men to share their experiences and seek help is critical. Creating safe spaces where men feel comfortable expressing their emotions without fear of judgment is essential. Peer support groups, therapy, and mental health workshops specifically tailored for men can provide the necessary support and resources.

We have a lot of work to do. Addressing the stigma surrounding mental health and addiction is a vital step in improving the well-being of our communities. Men, in particular, need to be encouraged to embrace mental wellness and seek support. 

Let us continue to support and expand these efforts, ensuring that no one feels alone in their struggle and that everyone has access to the help they need.


Paul was born and raised in Suffolk County Long Island and has called it home for the past 40 years where he and his wife are raising their two children. Paul has been an educator on Long Island since 2004 and holds two master’s degrees from Long Island colleges. With so much vested in this region, Paul has taken a keen interest in what has become one of Long Island’s most devastating realities; substance abuse and addiction. Having worked with teenagers his entire professional career, Paul offers a unique perspective into the mitigating factors that drive adolescent behaviors, particularly those which can lead to destructive decisions. Substance abuse and its ensuing crippling effects on the lives of people and their families has Paul’s attention and it is for these reasons Paul is the CEO of Long Island P.R.E.P. and Mission Z Podcast.

Connect with him through social media:

Twitter/X: @PLongislandprep

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