Our August Hudson Valley Hero Is Opening Up a Dialogue on Mental Illness

Through his own battle with mental illness, John Tessitore fights for others to learn and seek help.


Published:

Photo Courtesy of John Tessitore

 

Every day, the importance of destigmatizing mental illness in the United States becomes more and more apparent. It isn’t easy. When the practice of airing your feelings openly on social media is more popular than confiding in a friend or family member, opening up a dialogue takes some work.

But that work is what keeps John Tessitore and the JCK Foundation thriving. The organization’s mission is to raise awareness for mental health disorders through a variety of speaking engagements, events, and podcasts, with an aim to alleviate social stigma and provide a channel for those affected to seek help. It also works to secure academic grants for academic research into mental illness.

“We’d like to get a lot more money flowing into academic research specifically about mental health, specifically about the high school to college age range of intervention, because that’s where we saw it in a lot of our friends, and that’s where frankly we saw it in ourselves, too,” explains Mike Esposito, JCK Foundation Director.

The foundation is named after John Cleaver Kelly, a remarkable friend of Tessitore’s with whom he shared a disorder: OCD. The pair opened up to each other about their lives, inner thoughts, and daily struggles with the anxiety disorder, relying on each other to help make what might seem to be abnormal more approachable.

“I actually felt this really calming feeling when everything was really hectic, and I was isolated in my own head,” says Tessitore. “He would always reach out to me and make sure I was doing good.”

However, as Tessitore opened himself up to discussing his disorder, Kelly closed up, succumbing to his mental illness and taking his own life in 2011. Ever since, Tessitore has been determined to remember his friend for the openness he provided during their journey, and ensure that others don’t fall victim to the same fight.

Only a few months after Kelly's passing, Tessitore and several other friends memorialized Kelly’s life and spread his story by hosting a memorial softball tournament in Dobbs Ferry. After three successful tournaments, they decided it was time to share Kelly’s story with a wider audience through the JCK Foundation.

The JCK Foundation continues to work toward removing the negative stigma on social illness so those affected are more open to finding help. Its efforts reach as far as Kabale, Uganda, where the foundation has embarked on a psychiatric outreach program to rural villages in that area.

Its founders also host a podcast, recently renamed Collective Layers, aimed at providing positive and educational content that encourages and comforts those who either suffer or are close to someone who suffers.

“It made me feel so good to know that John’s legacy was impacting people in this way, and it really gave me a sense of purpose and a sense of belief. And John may not be here, but I feel like it’s my purpose to keep spreading his mission and to keep making people’s lives better in his honor,” says Tessitore.  

Click here to learn more about the work the JCK Foundation does and to see how you can donate or lend a hand.


Related: Our July Hudson Valley Hero Created the Viral #IceBucketChallenge


 

nominate a hudson valley hero

Each month, we spotlight a Valley resident who goes the extra mile to help those in need. Our heroes are your friends and neighbors who volunteer their time and talents to assist others; their sole reward is knowing that they’ve contributed to making our region an even better place to live.

Do you know a Hudson Valley Hero? Share their story and a photo (optional) below, and they could be featured on hvmag.com!

Your full name:

Your town/city:

Your email (if we need to contact you):

Your Hudson Valley Hero (full name):

Hero’s town/city:

Hero’s email (so we may contact them):

Hero’s phone (so we may call them):

Hero’s accomplishments or good deed (reason why they should be named a Hudson Valley Hero):

Note: Though we’d love to showcase all of the Valley’s good samaritans, please understand that nominations are for consideration only, to be reviewed by Hudson Valley Magazine’s editors. We only feature one Hero per month, so if you don’t see yours in print, don’t worry! We may be waiting to spotlight him or her in a future issue.


Sign up for our free e-newsletters:

HVM Today: Delivered every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, our editors hand-pick the region’s top stories — from hot ticket events and pop culture buzz, to recipes and restaurant reviews, to the latest headlines and tips on living well.

HVM VIP Invitations & Special Offers: Get special offers on local events, products, and services we think you’d like.

Click here to subscribe to Hudson Valley Magazine (opens in new window)


This page requires javascript. It seems that your browser does not have Javascript enabled. Please enable Javascript and press the Reload/Refresh button on your browser.

You may upload an attachment with your submission. We accept the following file types:
jpg,jpeg,gif,zip,tiff


File:


 

Edit Module