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chacku mathai

Element5 Digital

As Sharon Yates cut and plated pumpkin pie slices for a free weekly meal served by Trillium Health at the organization’s Rochester headquarters, she reflected that this one might be especially important. It was the day before Thanksgiving.

“Particularly on a holiday there might be people who don’t have family or friends they can go to, so we try to make this festive and a good occasion for them to be here,” Yates said.

And while that’s good for people who are looking for a hot meal or a communal gathering, not everyone wants to spend Thanksgiving around a crowded table, mental health experts say.

“It’s something that can be very confusing when the broader social conversation and media conversation is, ‘Who are you going to be with on Thanksgiving?’” said Chacku Mathai, CEO of the Mental Health Association of Rochester.

Brett Dahlberg / WXXI News

Today, Chacku Mathai is the CEO of the Mental Health Association of Rochester.

But at 15, he wanted to die.

Describing himself as an immigrant kid with dark skin in a largely white neighborhood, he said he felt misunderstood and targeted at school. He attempted suicide by overdosing on alcohol and other drugs.