Dominic CarterApr 7, 2017, 8:24 pmApr 8, 2017, 7:43 am

'Harris Project' shows dangerous link between mental health disorders, substance abuse

Mother of a teen overdose victim wants to share her story in the face of the opioid epidemic sweeping the country

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As the opioid epidemic sweeping the country continues to hit close to home, tomorrow marks the birthday of a young man named Harris Maquesano.

He died due to an accidental overdose, and his mother is trying to connect with as many young people as she possibly can to share his story.

“A police car as I got to my corner, came down my block, and I said, ‘if he stops at the house, I know what happened,’” Stephanie Marquesano recalled of the day she lost her 19-year-old son Harris four years ago.

The accidental overdose was the culmination of an issue that began for the former Ardsley High School student in the 11th grade.

“He went to a party, took prescription pills for the first time, and that started the end game for us,” continued Marquesano.

Since then, Marquesano has started an initiative called the Harris Project, where she talks to young people in schools about the dangerous link between mental health disorders and substance abuse.

Dr. Mark Herceg, Commissioner of Mental Health in Westchester claimed that, “Often times, the pressures of school, the stress of school, issues at home, trauma, bullying, and self-esteem, and kids will turn to various drugs – in this case opioids and heroin, which unfortunately can lead to death – to fill a void.”

“It's difficult to find coping mechanisms for mental illness without turning to drugs and alcohol,” added Lakeland High School sophomore Mahira Ahmad. “So the most important things is to spread healthy ways to cope with mental illness through the schools so that no one has to deal with things like that.”

Marquesano is not only addressing young people at schools in Westchester County, but in Greenwich, CT and in New Jersey.

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