WE NEED YOUR HELP — Support your hometown newspaper by making a donation.

Rockville Centre community aims to prevent suicide during uncertain times


The Rockville Centre community is sending a message of hope with a new billboard by the Recreation Center on Oceanside Road.

“You are not alone,” it reads, “Pause and remember, there is always hope.” Below is the Long Island Crisis Center’s 24/7-hotline number, (516) 679-1111.

Rockville Centre Coalition for Youth, which advocates for substance abuse prevention and mental health awareness, partnered with the Rockville Centre Police, School District and Youth Council, as well as the Ryan Patrick O’Shea Foundation, for the sign.

The goal was to make the billboard spring-themed, with a feeling of “renewal and new beginning,” said Ruthanne McCormack, the Coalition for Youth’s project coordinator.

“It serves a great purpose,” said John O’Shea, vice president of the Ryan Patrick O’Shea Foundation, which he started with friends and family of his late son, Ryan, who died by suicide in January 2019.

“It’s a beautiful and perfect message,” O’Shea added, “just to tell people that there is help for them.”

In light of recent suicides, the community has pulled together different projects to educate the community about suicide and mental health and bring awareness to resources for those who are struggling. However, due to coronavirus, some of those initiatives have been put on hold for now.

The school district had been set to start its “Sources of Strength” program, which would identify support systems for students navigating their mental health. The Coalition was going to meet with the MTA to discuss signage on the LIRR platforms and beautification of the station.

“All these plans will happen,” McCormack assured. “They’re just on hold for a while. When things go back to normal, we will meet with the railroad.”

The coronavirus pandemic in itself can overwhelm those facing mental health problems, O’Shea said. “People struggle dealing with life when it’s good,” he noted, “it’s a scary time, and that creates more issues.”

While medical institutions are focused on treating coronavirus patients, McCormack and O’Shea agreed that those facing a mental health crisis could be falling by the wayside. They hope that the billboard brings mental health issues back to the forefronts of people’s minds.

Although many may not see it in person due to social distancing, the groups are sharing it online via social media, they noted.

In addition, the Northwell Health-Cohen’s Children’s pediatric behavioral health center, which opened in February to students from Rockville Centre and other surrounding school districts, is still operating during this time. The center is accommodating virtual visits and scheduled walk-ins. For more information on the center, call (516) 927-1630 or email rvcbh@northwell.edu.

“Help is available for those struggling during this difficult time of social distancing,” Coalition members wrote in an email. “Please reach out to your family and friends. Share this information. There is help and always a person to speak to.”