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A march for mental health in Geneseo

More than 100 volunteers and community members walked on Geneseo's Athletic Field for mental health and suicide prevention awareness.

GENESEO, Ill — More than 100 people gathered at Geneseo's Athletic Field to march for mental health.

Volunteers and community members came together in support of Gray Matters Collective, a nonprofit focused on mental health and suicide prevention awareness. The group has almost two dozen chapters across the greater Quad Cities area, at various schools and colleges.

Before the march, volunteer Ethan Rivera shared stories of his struggles seeing how mental health affected his brother Foster. "He enjoyed meeting new people and bring around people," Rivera said. "He was a busy kid enjoying a busy lifestyle."

Things took a turn for the worse in 2017. "He would put on social media about the feelings that he was feeling, more than he would post about what would make him happy," Rivera said. "We knew something was wrong."

Him and his family couldn't get Foster the help he needed in time. "I regret the way I acted towards my brother for all those years, and wish I could've been better for him," Rivera said. "It's been a long six years, trying to figure out how to cope with the fact that I don't have my brother anymore."

The march was the first one for Gray Matters, which brought in student volunteers like Cael Hinde, a senior at Riverdale High School in Port Byron. "If we can get this message out to as many people as we can that they're loved, they're cared about, they need to keep marching forward, we will hear them, we will care for them — that's what is important to us," Hinde said.

Volunteers said their effort is more important than ever. "Those lives that have been lost by suicide isn't just a statistic —they're human beings that had families, siblings, moms and dads," Geneseo student leader Bella McDaniel said.

The volunteers added that we can do simple things to check on the mental health of others. "Just checking up on friends — not just strong friends, not just friends that might seem sad, but every single friend," McDaniel said. "Just paying someone a compliment, asking them how their day was, checking up on them if you notice they were off or sad — anything really," Hinde said.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, the national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24/7 by calling or texting 988 for free, confidential support.

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