New mural in Reading shines spotlight on mental health

·3 min read

Oct. 22—More than 150 people attended a dedication ceremony in Reading on Thursday afternoon for a new mural that aims to erase the stigma behind mental illness and provide education about suicide prevention.

The 45-foot "Hope Blossoms" mural was installed behind Threshold Rehabilitation Services' Mosaic House in the 500 block of Franklin Street and sponsored by the Berks County Suicide Prevention Task Force as part of its ruOK Berks campaign.

County officials said the artwork is designed to help spread the word about the services provided through ruOK Berks.

The Mosaic House is a supportive community where individuals who struggle with mental illness can build skills and relationships, so Threshold Rehabilitation Services President Tom McNelis said that adding the mural to support the ruOK Berks effort was a natural fit.

"The location of our Mosaic House building with the unobstructed view of its back wall proved to be a perfect mural canvas," McNelis said. "Threshold firmly supports the vision and mission of the Suicide Prevention Task Force and we are grateful to the many sponsors and partners who helped create this beautiful and meaningful piece of art."

The mural was designed by artist Greg Didyoung of Art Plus Gallery in West Reading, but the actual painting was completed by various members of the community through workshops where volunteers painted panels that had the design printed on them. Muralist Michael Miller oversaw the painting workshops and the installation of the panels.

The mural took shape in late September as each panel was carefully added to the Mosaic House.

"We believe the mural is symbolic in the sense that is was painted in sections by different groups of individuals within our own community," said Michele Ruano-Weber, deputy administrator for the Berks County Office of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. "When each piece came together, it created this beautiful piece of artwork"

Ruano-Weber said the task force wants to provide mental health education to groups within the community so that they can learn to recognize when someone is struggling and help them find the assistance they need in an effort to ensure the community as a whole will see a reduction in the number of lives taken by suicide.

Funding for the project was largely covered by proceeds from the ruOK Berks 5K that Threshold has sponsored the last several years, along with donations from Service, Access & Management, the Berks County Office of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities and the Science Research Institute at Albright College.

The following groups and organizations served as mural painting partners:

— Science Research Institute at Albright College students

— Drexel University/Tower Health College of Medicine students and staff

— The Highlands at Wyomissing

— Olivet Boys and Girls Club

— Berks County Juvenile Probation Office

— Pennsylvania Counseling Services Inc.

— Penn State Berks students and staff

— Penn Street Farmers' Market

— Reading Hospital Emergency Medicine residents and staff

— Schuylkill Valley Middle School and High School Art Club

— Threshold Rehabilitation Services staff and individuals

— Hope Springs Clubhouse members and staff

— Wyomissing High School's Aevidium Club and Service Club

— Berks Suicide Prevention Task Force members

— Hopeful Minds

— Reading Avenue Painting Guild