The first weeks after Phil Mazzini’s suicide in April 2016 were excruciating for his family.
His daughters Artemis and Sophia, now both students at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, knew their father had fought depression for years but had rarely discussed the details of the illness with him. Outside the family, few knew of his struggles. He was successful, dedicated to his family and popular with his colleagues.
“He did everything for other people,” Artemis said. “He wanted to be there for everybody else, and couldn’t accept that other people sometimes needed to be there for him.”
The secrecy surrounding depression and suicide added to their pain and anger. People assumed Phil had died of a heart attack. Classmates discussing the unrelated suicide of a fellow student called killing yourself “the most self-centered thing you could do,” Sophia said.
But now Artemis, a rising senior in the School of Communication and Information, and Sophia, a rising sophomore in the Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick are working to help erase the stigma associated with depression and to create a foundation that will help people with mental illness and their families.
On Saturday, Sept. 23, they will honor their father’s memory by sponsoring “Into the Light,” a five-kilometer run/walk on Rutgers-New Brunswick’s Cook campus. The event will solicit donations for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Artemis and Sophia have drawn support from fraternities and sororities, including their own sorority, other Rutgers organizations, community organizations, family, friends, he management of The Yard, on College Avenue, which will put a video about the race on its huge video screen.The sisters hope to eventually establish a scholarship in Phil Mazzini’s name at Rutgers -New Brunswick and to start a new foundation that will assist people with mental illness and their families.
Artemis recalls that her father had been there for her two years before when as a first-year student at Rutgers she was feeling sad and anxious at the start of what everyone had told her would be “the best four years of my life.” Not understanding why she was sad, she had several long, tearful conversations with her father. He had no magic solutions for her, but Artemis knew he understood.
”We started our outreach in April, and raised $5,000,” Artemis says. “But when we got to $17,000, we set a goal of $25,000. It’s going to be great to see the student body come together and recognize that depression is an illness, and that there should be no stigma attached to it.”
Anyone wishing to participate into the Into the Light five-kilometer run/walk can sign up at https://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=4911
Media contact: Ken Branson, 848-932-0580; cell 908-797-2590; email@example.com