Newest mural ‘reminds people that there’s hope,’ celebrates life of man who died after mental health battle

A new mural to fight against the stigma surrounding mental illness debuted in San Marco on the birthday of a man who died after battling mental health issues.

The nonprofit “Hearts4Minds” unveiled the latest masterpiece that includes a dragonfly design as a part of its “Murals with Meanings” program.

Sheryl Johnson is the creator of the nonprofit and was inspired to take up this initiative after her son Alex Newman died from a fentanyl overdose in 2018.

She said Newman suffered from mental health battles.

“It is about celebrating who he was in his life and reminding people that there is hope,” Johnson said.

The dragonfly design reminds Johnson of her son after it became a symbol for this mission.

“He loved the water. He was at home in the water. He loved to ride motocross. We like to think of the fun times we had as a family. He loves to cook in the kitchen,” Johnson said about her son.

David Nackashi designed and painted the mural.

Nackashi said he had a specific vision for whoever posed in front of the dragonfly.

“For them to be highlighted. Not necessarily the mural, but it helps frame out the individual. That is the point,” Nackashi said.

Newman would have turned 29 years old Saturday. After the unveiling, there was a birthday party for him at Balis Park.

Mary Dreggors attended the party and is a mental health counselor.

“I think, as a society, we have moved into a new frame of thought about mental health, especially when it comes to mental health and addictions awareness, and the opioid epidemic,” Dreggors said. “We have kind of realized that if we ignore things and throw them in a corner, it just builds that stigma.”

That’s why Dreggors supports talking about mental health and its stigma to get the information out there.

Johnson said Hearts4Minds aims to:

Destigmatize mental illnessTalk about it and its strugglesPromote mental health education and literacy including suicide prevention coursesConnect people to resources and treatment

Ultimately, the nonprofit wants people to know they matter.

This mural is the 11th to be painted across Jacksonville… with number 12 to be unveiled Friday night at Kava and Company on Kings Avenue.

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