Trumbull fundraiser spreads sunshine, mental health awareness

TRUMBULL — With the gray of winter still receding and with so many people struggling in these tough times, Gillian Anderson knows that everyone could use a little sunshine.

Anderson is the founder of My Friend Abby, Inc, a not-for-profit organization awarding grants to youth and young adults taking action to promote mental and emotional health and suicide prevention.

For the second time, the organization is running a “Spreading Sunshine” campaign, in which people can donate $25 throughout the months of April and May for a decorative lawn sign with an image of a golden sun on it. Anderson said My Friend Abby launched the program last year to raise both money and awareness for the cause of youth mental health, and it was a success.

“We had so much positive feedback,” Anderson said. “People just immediately lit up when they saw the signs.”

Signs will be posted throughout Fairfield and Trumbull. All proceeds will benefit My Friend Abby, and help provide grants to youths and young adults who actively seek to create peer-to-peer connections to improve mental and emotional health.

The cause is a personal one to Anderson, whose daughter Abby died by suicide seven years ago. The sunshine images on the “Spreading Sunshine” signs are based on an image that Abby once drew on a friend’s hand, Anderson said.

Youth mental health is more important than ever, Anderson said, particularly in light of a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that, in 2021, more than a third (37 percent) of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 44 percent reported they persistently felt sad or hopeless during the past year.

“Obviously, it’s a very important time right now for mental health,” Anderson said. “There’s been so much struggle with COVID but so much struggle even before that. A lot of young adults are persistently sad or hopeless feeling.”

The “Spreading Sunshine” campaign is a way to get the word out about these issues while making everyone’s world a little brighter, she said.

“By continuing to have the conversation and normalize the conversation, it’s going to make a difference,” Anderson said.

People can order Spreading Sunshine signs at https://www.myfriendabby.org/shop.