Berks Suicide Prevention Task Force unveils ‘Hope Blossoms’ mural in Reading

The Berks County Suicide Prevention Task Force hosted a special dedication ceremony for the new “Hope Blossoms” mural Thursday afternoon. The mural is located behind Threshold Rehabilitation Services’ Mosaic House at 525 Franklin Street in Reading.

The beautiful 45-foot mural is sponsored by the ruOK Berks campaign from the Berks County Suicide Prevention Task Force. The artwork is designed to help spread the word about the services provided through ruOK Berks and to help lesson or erase the stigmas associated with mental health.

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The Mosaic House Clubhouse is a supportive community where individuals who struggle with mental illness can build skills and relationships, so Tom McNelis, president and CEO of Threshold Rehabilitation Services, said adding this 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 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.

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Muralist Michael Miller oversaw the painting workshops and the installation of the panels. The mural took shape throughout 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. The Task Force wants to provide education to groups within our community to learn to recognize when someone is struggling and help them to find the assistance they need, so that our community as a whole will see a reduction in the number of lives taken away by suicide.”

According to a description by Didyoung, the overall theme of the mural is hope, with a neon-outlined head tiled up toward the word in large pink lettering.

The mural’s contrasting colors and dark background reflect the highs and lows of mental health, while the 1980s aesthetic highlights the prime decade when middle-aged men in Berks County were most affected by suicide. Inside the head, a cluster of flowers represents the beauty, complexity and growth of the human mind.

Surrounding the head are falling abstract Tetris pieces to illustrate how, unlike a puzzle, Tetris allows for flexibility and the acceptance that is it OK when pieces do not always fit perfectly together.

The funding for the project is largely covered by the proceeds of the ruOK Berks 5K run and 1-mile walk that Threshold has been sponsoring for the last several years, along with donations from Service, Access & Management, the Berks County MH/DD Office 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 Area HS Aevidium Club and Service Club, Berks Suicide Prevention Task Force, Members, Hopeful Minds, and Reading Avenue Painting Guild.

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