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Mental motivation: More than 400 join 'The World Needs You Here' walk on Common

Salem News - 7/31/2023

Jul. 31—SALEM — Several hundred walked around the Witch City on Sunday morning with one simple, five-word message in mind: The world needs you here.

Mental Makeover's second-annual "The World Needs You Here" mental health awareness walk took over Salem Common and surrounding roads Sunday, July 30, with pre-registrations and turnout that effectively doubled numbers seen by the organization in its first year.

Started in 2018 by a group of Salem High graduates motivated to end the stigma surrounding mental illness, Mental Makeover is today a non-profit organization with merchandise lines and staff continually working that goal.

The organization's work is also imbued with the memory of Sarah "Sas" Starion, a 2017 graduate of Salem High School known to many around Salem and in the organization. She died by suicide in 2021, shocking everyone who remembered her as a widely popular class president and varsity volleyball star with infectious energy.

For months following Starion's death, a pedestrian bridge over Highland Avenue that serves the high school was decorated with red drinking cups spelling out "SAS" in the fence, as a devastated group of friends kicked their locally grown mental health advocacy organizatioon into overdrive, leading to the hundreds who turned out Sunday on Salem Common.

"Growing up in Salem and having an event in Salem is such an honor," said Brandon Mustafaraj, director of Mental Makeover. "But a second annual event that's double everything — registrations, donations, sponsors — I have to pinch myself more often, because I can't believe we've made it this far."

First held in May 2022, the The World Needs You Here walk formed to support those battling depression and thoughts of suicide while also honoring those who've died by the act.

It did so by continuing to spread Starion's positive energy in the world, namely through merchandise sales. Some of the nonprofit's most popular items use one of her favorite quotes, a nod to Maya Angelou: "Your legacy is every life you touch."

"We saw how powerful that quote was, not just for your own self-motivation and confidence, but your well being, emotional and physical health, mental health, clarity," Mustafaraj said. "The merch allows us to open up more conversations."

Two boxes set up at event day also sought to carry that effort forward, encouraging conversations that lead to education, according to Mustafaraj.

"Everything falls into educating the youth, educating the community, and that comes with these two boxes," said Mustafaraj. "We have an education box, and a new box we made called 'The World Needs You Here' box."

The table, run heavily by volunteers, was surrounded by tables and tents for other vendors and organizations proactive on mental health, including the North Shore Alliance for GLBTQ+ Youth (NAGLY), The Haven Project, and Mental Houseplants. Another table led by Mental Health Declassified pushed attendees to "take an affirmation, leave an affirmation."

With the event wrapped, Mental Makeover is planning another quotation-based line of merchandise to hit this fall: "See You Tomorrow."

"What that builds off of is that it's not a 'goodbye' to see you tomorrow. It's something I've been saying for 10 years now," said Tyler Provost, a new member of the group taking over it merchandising efforts. "We're going to be bringing in different artists from around the country and creating different designs to draw around the reasons.

"It's never a goodbye. It's a 'see you tomorrow,'" Provost continued. "We all have our ups and downs, our good days and bad days. But at the end of the day, there is always tomorrow. You know the sun is going to come up again, and you can live another day in this beautiful world. You can't take it for granted."

For more information on Mental Makeover, visit If you're in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, help is available at the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 on your phone or visiting

Contact Dustin Luca at 978-338-2523 or Follow him at or on Twitter @DustinLucaSN.

Contact Dustin Luca at 978-338-2523 or Follow him at or on Twitter @DustinLucaSN.


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