Honoring Mental Health Awareness Month with a
community dialogue on teen mental health
As part of the Landmark’s Conversation from Main Street series, the theater will be hosting ‘Lifting the Stigma’ to have an open discussion about teen mental health. In support of Mental Health Awareness Month, the event will feature expert panelists to share information and cultivate conversation about teen mental health.
‘Lifting the Stigma’ will take place on Tuesday, May 30, in the Jeanne Rimsky Theater at 7 p.m. The Landmark’s Conversations from Main Street Series features speakers and lecturers to discuss important and relevant topics, such as the recent ‘Gaslit’ conversation focusing on the gas industry and the environment. The series is generously sponsored by the Angela and Scott Jaggar Foundation.
Amanda Kowalczuk has recently joined The Landmark on Main Street as its Manager of Community Affairs. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month and a degree in Drama Therapy, Kowalczuk planned ‘Lifting the Stigma.’
To open the event, a young lady from Weber Middle School will sing a song from the musical Dear Evan Hansen. The musical surrounds teens in high school dealing with tragedies and loneliness. The story has encouraged an open dialogue about mental illness, which follows the theme of ‘Lifting the Stigma.’
The Conversations from Main Street event will feature a panel discussion with several speakers moderated by Amanda Perez Leder, MPH. Leder lives in Port Washington and has an extensive professional background as a facilitator and strategist focused on workplace culture, equity and health.
“[Leder] has a Master’s in public health and that has led her to lend herself to these types of events where she is there to be a moderator,” said Kowalczuk. “She also has extensive training in moderation. It’s so involved and a delicate balance of respecting everybody’s time, not only the panelists but also the audience.”
Leder previously moderated the ‘Gaslit’ Conversations from Main Street in April. Her expertise in moderation allows her to ensure everyone is heard and that everything runs smoothly.
There are three panelists confirmed for the ‘Lifting the Stigma’ conversation. Lori Zlotoff, a licensed clinical social worker; Lorrie Director, the district director of guidance for Port Washington Schools; and Dr. Vera Feuer, Associate Vice President of the School Mental Health at Northwell Health and the Director of Pediatric Emergency Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Urgent Care, CCMC.
“I wanted to make sure that the panel was well-rounded in terms of experience,” said Kowalczuk. “I just wanted to make sure that everyone up there had something to bring to the table: a different perspective.”
The Landmark worked with Schreiber High School to secure a student from the Mental Health Awareness Club to join the panelists and bring a teen perspective to the conversation. Senior at Schreiber, Gaby Sorin will join the panel.
As a youth-centered conversation, the panelists at the event are there to provide professional insight and help guide the flowing conversation with attendees.
“The goal of all of the Conversations on Main Street series events is to be inclusive of the audience as well as the experts,” said Kowalczuk. “Of course, you need the experts there to provide facts and the perspective, but the idea behind this, especially this one, is to have the young people be heard.”
To amplify the voices of teens in the community, the Landmark has sent out an anonymous survey with three questions for teens to answer. The questions are; What helps and supports your mental health? What harms your mental health? And, what do we need more of in this community in order for all teens to feel supported and healthy?
The answers to the survey will be reviewed and discussed by Kowalczuk and Leder to see what themes come up, what answers are similar, and to look for answers that are really different. The survey findings will be shared with the panelists to get feedback and perspective prior to the event.
“We have a very dynamic and vocal group of young people here in Port Washington, and I’m hoping that some of these responses we get are going to be things we can build upon,” said Kowalczuk.
While ‘Lifting the Stigma’ is a community dialogue on teen mental health, adults and parents are encouraged to attend in addition to teens. Conversations around mental health can be uncomfortable and involve sensitive topics that can be difficult to discuss.
“We’re not going to get rid of cell phones; we’re not going to get rid of social media; we’re not going to get rid of bullying. But I think the more it’s talked about and the more we bring these things to light, the fewer kids have to feel alone,” said Kowalczuk. “With my background in drama therapy, my whole training is about sharing your story to heal and to heal others as well. So that’s the main goal here.”
The panelists will be responding to the survey questions to advise from their perspective, and the audience will be allowed to voice comments and questions in between.
“It’s going to flow; it’s not hard and fast facts. We’re not here to talk about statistics. We’re here to talk about how we can improve and support,” said Kowalczuk.
To close out the night, Kowalczuk and Leder have planned a workshop prompt for attendees to talk to each other about the event.
“We want to bring people together and we want young people to look around and see all of these adults that are here because they care about this topic,” said Kowalczuk.
Conversations from Main Street events are free for the public. To register for the event, visit landmarkonmainstreet.org
Lori Zlotoff, LCSW
Zlotoff has over 20 years of experience as a clinical social worker. She currently works on the year-round professional team for Camp Harlam, a Reform Jewish overnight camp, as the REDI and Camper Care Manager. She owns her own private practice with offices in Roslyn and Great Neck. Her camp work and private practice work have underscored the need for a tremendous amount of attention to be paid to the Mental Emotional Social Health (MESH) of our young people, and that we all play a role in serving as protective factors to the children and teens in our lives.
Director is a proud alumna of Port schools and is delighted to serve the students of Port Washington in her role. She has presented to counselors and administrators at the local, state, and national levels. Director believes that parents should be informed consumers in their students’ search for post-secondary opportunities. She has served as co-chair of the NYSACAC scholarship committee, helping to ensure that underserved populations gain access to college. She is also involved with the New York State School Counselors Association, advocating for the school counseling profession across New York State.
Dr. Vera Feuer
Dr. Feuer has been at Northwell for 13 years and has experience in Pediatric and Adult Addiction-, Consultation-, and Emergency Psychiatry. She has been working in emergency and crisis psychiatry developing telepsychiatry and urgent care models as well as community-embedded urgent care centers in partnership with schools. She has been collaborating with school districts to expand access to mental health care for students as well as to provide community education and professional development to school communities.
Gaby Sorin is a current senior at Schreiber High School, graduating this June. She will be attending Wesleyan University in the fall and is intending to major in Neuroscience and Behavior with a focus in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies. Gaby is an active volunteer Crisis Counselor for the “Crisis Text Hotline” where she supports and guides those struggling with emergent mental health concerns. In addition to being active in many of Schreiber’s honor societies and clubs, she plays on the Girl’s Varsity Tennis and Badminton teams. In her free time, Gaby enjoys arts and crafts, spending time with her friends and playing with her dog, Haley.
Amanda Perez Leder (Moderator)
Leder is a trainer and strategist focused on public health, culture, and racial equity. Her consulting practice supports non-profit leaders and Boards with building and sustaining cultures that allow the whole team to contribute and thrive. She is a sought-after facilitator to design inclusive gatherings and effectively navigate conflict and tough topics like racism, trauma and sexuality. Amanda earned a B.S. in Human Development from Cornell University and a Masters in Public Health from George Washington University. She is now extending her credentials with a Professional Certification in Conflict Resolution & Mediation from Columbia University. She has been a member of the Landmark Theater for years and is excited to be facilitating another public health event for our local community.
—Information provided by the
Landmark on Main Street