KEEP WELL: Mayor Mark Freda will join discussions about books focused on mental wellness as part of the upcoming Mayor’s Wellness Campaign events at the Princeton Public Library.
By Anne Levin
A series of events in support of the Mayor’s Wellness Campaign, focusing on the mental wellbeing of families, children and people of all ages, is about to begin in and around the library Princeton public.
From book discussions and readings to a hula hoop night and bracelet making, the program encompasses many approaches to maintaining mental health. The project has grown from a brainchild of three-book talks to becoming the library’s main focus for the fall and beyond.
“It was a simple concept that took off,” said Janie Hermann, the library’s adult programming manager. “We’ve committed to it until May 2023 and it could continue after that, but we don’t know yet.”
The Mayor’s Wellness Campaign is a voluntary program of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute in partnership with the New Jersey State League of Municipalities. In 2018, the campaign ranked Princeton as a “healthy city”, the highest of the three rankings. But over the past three years, the municipality has descended back to the rank of “healthy city to watch”, and the idea is to bring it back to the top.
“Mayors can choose to join, and not all cities do,” Hermann said. “I understand the mayor is trying to take us to the next level.”
Mayor Mark Freda will be on hand for the book talks, the first of which will take place on September 21 when the subject is Maybe you should talk to someone by psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb.
“This series builds on the Mayor’s Wellness Campaign initiative that our Health Department staff launched last year to address social isolation in Princeton,” Freda said in a statement. Press. “With the help of the Princeton Arts Council and the Princeton Senior Resource Center, we facilitated community connections through art and gardening. I am pleased that with the help of the library and other local partners this fall, we are continuing to engage residents through discussions of books focused on mental health and shared human experiences. I encourage everyone to read with us and participate in the discussions.
Each session will be led by a library staff member and a local community leader knowledgeable in the field. Hermann leads Sept. 21 at 11 a.m. (a virtual chat will be held at 7 p.m. via Google Meet), alongside Dave Errickson, executive director of Corner House Behavioral Health. The theme for the second book discussion, November 17 at 7 p.m., is Together: the healing power of human connection in a sometimes lonely world, by Dr. Vivek Murphy. Whitney Ross, executive director of Trinity Counseling, will lead with a library staff member.
Last spring, Hermann became aware of Freda’s efforts to end social isolation due to the pandemic through partnerships with the Arts Council and the Princeton Senior Resource Center. When she met him at an Earth Day event in Herrontown Woods, they began discussing the possibility of collaborating on book talks.
Hermann took the idea back to library staff, and it grew. A committee has been formed to help select the books. “We wanted to make sure we had a youth component, and between the months when there are book talks, which are every two months, we wanted to have an activity,” she said.
The first of these related activities is a “Moments of Mindfulness Story Hour” on Saturday, September 10 at Community Park North/Pettoranello Gardens. Aimed at children aged 3 to 8 and their families, it will include books, songs, rhymes and activities focusing on various aspects of mindfulness and nature.
The virtual storytelling room on the library’s YouTube channel will feature a special edition of Storytime Shorts focused on mental well-being and emotional literacy for young children and their families starting September 15 with Hurry up! A book about slowing down by Kate Dopirak. Additional versions include When sadness is at your doorstep by Eva Eland on October 13, and Ally all the way November 10.
Two events on Saturday October 1st mark World Hoop Day – a class for children ages 8 and up in the Community Hall and a hula hoop night for all ages in Hinds Plaza. Events are designed to encourage fun and physical activity as a way to increase feelings of well-being.
Teens and adults can make a lava bead diffuser bracelet in the Community Hall on Saturday, October 22 at 1:30 p.m. On Sunday, December 4 at 10:30 a.m., Hermann and Linda Willmer will lead a workshop on making greeting cards . “Research has shown that writing and receiving letters or cards enhances feelings of well-being and reduces social isolation,” reads the event listing at princetonlibrary.org/wellness.
“What started small has grown into a major initiative for the library that involves all departments,” Hermann said. “We’re looking at how all of these things together can contribute to everyone’s sense of well-being.”