WAKE FOREST, N.C. (WTVD) -- Dozens of hot dogs on a grill manned by Wake Forest firefighters were part of an outreach campaign organized by Town Commissioner Nick Sliwinski Saturday.
The food, along with music and more interactive activities outside and inside the Wake Forest Renaissance Center were part of the town's first Wellness and Self Care Fair.
"Absolutely," said the town's community outreach manager Andrew Brown.
He told ABC11 the fair's focus included depression, suicide awareness, veterans benefits, and senior benefits.
"Some of the things that we're most concerned about. But you also do have family that are coping with youth and family issues, especially when you get into the holidays. You want to have just shown where resources are available in Wake Forest," Brown said.
Commissioner Sliwinski choked up several times while sharing his struggles in college with depression.
"It turned out a couple of months into my freshman semester, things were more difficult to adjust. Tough to wake up in the morning, tough to fall asleep at night. It was kind of this, I guess, the struggle of how to really function on my own, which I thought everyone was going through," he said.
"It turned out it was a lot more than that. After my first year, you know, grades came in and I remember my mom sitting with me on the porch and going. 'Oh, your grades are in. What's this all about?' And all I could get out was, 'Something's not right.' So 19-year-old me went and saw my family physician, and he said pretty definitively, 'This is absolutely undiagnosed depression where I do everything we can to help you' and gave you the name of the therapist to go see."
Sliwinski said nothing made sense at the time but after sitting with the therapist 'it finally clicked.'
"I loved going back to school. The following semester and back on my own, something wasn't right again, to the point where at 20 years old, I had decided that 20 years was enough. And if it weren't for a good friend who knocked on my door ...I would not be here today. I would not have my wonderful wife, my two beautiful children, and even two years later, every time I see that man or talk to him, I thank him," he said.
"It wasn't something that was typically talked about growing up. So, yeah, I fear that people are unable to not only speak in front of folks but to loved ones, to people, because there is still a stigma. There is that feeling that, well, you're just sad when it can be a whole lot more than that."
The resources provided to those who attended the fair were designed to help people of all ages feel better while learning how to help themselves and others cope.
"Yes. And that's why we got the music playing at the free food," said Brown. "We also have our police department here because people need to know where we have several crisis intervention officers so that if there's a mental health emergency, you don't necessarily want to call 911, and that lets them know that it's a mental health emergency."
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health concerns and would like help, text or call 988 for help and assistance.