SEVERNA PARK, Md — It was a day-long music festival in Severna Park with a simple message: you are not alone. 'Burgers and Bands for Suicide Prevention' took over Severna Park Taphouse for its third year of music food, and raising awareness.
"It's a great time to talk about mental health without any stigma. We just say, yeah, we've struggled. We've been through it and it's okay," said organizer Ann Brennan.
The Brennan family is living proof. Ann and her son Ethan started the fundraiser after his battle with depression.
"Five years ago, I really believe in my heart of hearts, that we would lose Ethan to suicide. He made several attempts. He was so depressed," said Ann.
"For me, it was, 'It would be better off if you weren't there,' and 'You can't make it through this,' not you shouldn't or it's hard, but you cannot do it," said Ethan, talking about his depression.
As he was getting through it, he saw how widespread mental health issues were at his high school and nearby community. Ethan says mental health providers actually called his high school 'suicide high.'
"This community has had 22 suicides in about 14 years and those are the ones we know about. So he is the very picture of hope," said Ann.
Ethan said a lot of it stems from the immense pressure students feel to live up to societal ideas.
"They’re expected to get straight A's with six AP’s, be the captain of every team they’re on and have a sport for fall seasons, winter, summer and spring, and so you have all this pressure and this feeling that they have to live a certain life or they are letting everyone down," said Ethan.
So he and his mom decided to step up to reach the people who are struggling.
"When someone feels alone, the absolute most important thing we can do is make sure that that person has all the supports they need and just seeing the community come out for an event like this, it just shows how important it is," said Mike Caimona, who is on the board of directors for the foundation.
The day-long festival drew some big names like the Kelly Bell Band from Baltimore, who has a personal connection.
"I understand the value of this as a therapist and I also understand the value of this as a adolescent who had once pondered to be or not to be himself," said Kelly Bell. "It only seems right that we be here."
They hope this shows how much people care and breaks down the stigma around asking for help.
"You don't have to be struggling. You don't have to be suicidal to ask for help. You can be having a hard day. You can be having a perfectly great life and you could be stressed about finals, and it's okay to have a therapist to talk to once a month, once every two months. It's not a sign that you're messed up because you are talking to someone. Sometimes you are talking to someone because it helps you," said Ethan.
They already raised $65,000 before the festival even started. Money raised will go towards mental health education in schools and national suicide prevention organizations.
They will be hosting their first ever Annapolis Burgers and Bands festival in October.