When thousands ascend to Mizner Park Amphitheater to boost their healthy living-IQ and enhance their lifestyles at WPEC 12’s free and open-to-the-public third Annual Health and Wellness Experience (HWE) on Saturday, March 19th, community sponsor Boca Raton’s Promise (BRP) will be putting Mental Health center stage from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. With large tent location next to the main stage and across the aisle from the WPEC CBS12 and WTVX CW34 booths, event-goers will engage in inspiring and enlightening life-changing conversations, become educated on support resources and empowered in which ways to cope for youth, young adults, college students, parents and seniors. Programming is presented by BRP and members of the Palm Beach Action Alliance for Mental Health, a collaboration of 28 agencies throughout the county. Topics to be explored under the 20’ x 20’ tent include depression, post-partum and other situational stress, teen and adult suicide prevention, mental health’s impact on public safety, mental health in the workplace, and impacts of bullying. Visitors can learn about Mental Health First Aid training and the therapeutic value of engaging in family support groups, arts and craft-making and spend time with trained therapy dogs who go regularly into our local hospitals, nursing homes, and courtrooms with volunteers sharing the mental health benefits provided by therapy dogs and the value of animal therapy for mental illness. Interactive activities include meeting trained therapy dogs from Caring Canines and Sunshine on a Leash organizations plus children’s emoji cookie decorating and ‘I AM’ tailgate-style games presented by school FRiENDS program. In the HWE’s screenings section on the amphitheater’s clock tower patio, BRP and MHA-PBC will be hosting a ‘depression screening’ tent, youth ‘emotion’ art activity and adult coloring sheet sessions in the event’s designated ‘screening’ section. Participating resources organizations include 211, National Association For Mental Illness (NAMI-PBC), Ruth Rales Jewish Family Services, Healthier Delray Beach, Mental Health Association (MHA-PBC), Boynton Beach Mental Health Initiative, Boys Town South Florida, Alliance for Eating Disorders, Living Skills in the Schools, Faulk Center for Counseling and more. “In interactive, educational and empowering ways, we will be ‘turning up the volume’ to ‘break the silence’ on mental illness so that those in need of help and their loved ones are no longer afraid or ashamed to seek that help,” noted BRP Co-founder and President Rita Thrasher who has lost two daughters with mental illnesses and wants to lessen the pain of families and friends with loved ones living with mental illness. “Education leads to understanding, understanding leads to sensitivity and acceptance which in turn leads to critical action to make municipalities and faith communities mind-healthy. Such action includes advocacy for legislation changes, campus counseling, city initiatives and collaborations, school curriculum and programming and community awareness opportunities like WPEC12’s Health & Wellness Experience.” According to Thrasher, mental illness in Palm Beach County is “much more common than thought. In fact, it outnumbers cancer, diabetes and heart attacks combined with one in four adults having mental illness and even more affected by a family member, colleague, student, friend or neighbor living with mental illness.” Statistics show that one half of all mental illnesses begin by age 14 and 22 percent of middle school students have reported considering suicide. It is related to bullying, drop out, absenteeism, and violence. It affects all ages, cultures, faiths, schools and workplaces. It’s cost equals 40% of the gross national product. She adds that “the social fabric of communities is being impacted by untreated mental illness,” Every nonprofit and every school and every faith leader is being challenged. Caregiving of adult children living at home and their siblings is stretching communities beyond their ability to respond.“ “So it is now more than ever to start the critical life-changing conversations in our communities, neighborhoods, schools, at work and houses of worship that forever ‘break the silence’ on mental illness,” she continued. “That’s what we at Boca Raton’s Promise and the Action Alliance do every single day, and we encourage others to join us as together we start conversations to educate and help build responsive, mind-healthy communities.” Free parking for HWE is available at City Hall and the Downtown library with complimentary trolley service to Mizner Park. Parking is limited onsite. For more information and updates on Boca Raton Promise’s activities planned for the WPEC 12 Health & Wellness Experience, visit, LIKE its Facebook page or call 561-866-1850. For more details on the HWE event, visit