When Vanessa Barisano was pregnant nearly 20 years ago, she knew something didn’t feel right.
She had trouble sleeping and felt anxious all the time, but her doctors told her that was normal. Barisano, now 47, was right — she was struggling with depression and she needed help. That’s when she found the Postpartum Resource Center of New York, a community of women helping other women through mental health support.
“I immediately felt relief and a sense of ‘I’m going to be OK, there are people paying attention,’ ” Barisano, of Roslyn, said Saturday at the center’s annual Sounds of Silence 5k/10k Run.
More than 600 people turned out for the center’s 10th run, raising $50,000 and awareness of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. For survivors like Barisano, it was a chance to embrace their community and a learning experience for their supporters.
Runners and walkers began gathering at 8 a.m. to register, pick up T-shirts and have breakfast. Organizers kicked off the event with raffles, group yoga stretches and a resource fair at Field 5 at Jones Beach.
The cold, gray weather didn’t deter runners, who stayed warm with sweatshirts and jackets before taking off just after 9 a.m.
“It’s important to raise awareness with Mother’s Day coming up,” said Katie Pearlman, 38, of Oceanside, who brought her son Andy, 8, for the 5k.
One in 10 pregnant women will experience depression or anxiety, said Sonia Murdock, the center’s executive director and co-founder, and these conditions are treatable if families and doctors know what to look for. The race is a chance to reach out to the community as runners register and seek donations.
“This is a celebration of moms, we want to highlight the strength of moms,” Murdock said.
Patricia Beaumont, co-chair of the race, said she hoped attendees walked away with a greater understanding of how to help new mothers. The warning signs, like fatigue, lack of interest, personality changes and feelings of anxiety, aren’t always obvious and some women may be afraid to speak up, so loved ones and doctors need to make a point to ask directly.
“You’re sitting in that bed holding that baby with a fake smile,” Beaumont said. “ . . . when I became a mom, they gave me a slip of paper in the hospital that said ‘You can get help,’ but that’s not enough. You need face-to-face contact.”
The West Islip center offers resources and training, and many women who find help there return to volunteer. Erin Mascaro and her sister Lisa Reilly organized the first walk in 2008 after Reilly’s own experience with depression. Reilly died in 2014.
“My sister wanted to pay it forward,” said Mascaro, race director. “The ‘Super Mom’ our society has created is unrealistic. This is real motherhood and sometimes you need real help.”