DARIEN — Hoping to get more families out of the house—as well as highlight the connection between mind and body—The Depot Youth Center hosted a Fitness & Mental Health Awareness Expo Sunday afternoon.

“The point of The Depot is to bring people together,” said Lisa Koorbusch, board vice president, “ and to bring the community together.”

“And I think the idea of doing a spin class outside on this beautiful day is a lot more fun than doing it inside,” she said.

Consensus is that these past months of pandemic-related isolation has left many people wanting to be out and about with others, while at the same time struggling with some issues of health and wellness—both physical and mental.

“I think we definitely need to bring mental health awareness to the town, especially for the children,” said parent Brandi Maniscalco of Darien, noting that many have been impacted by depression relating to the isolation and peripheral challenges.

“I think it’s the number one issue the teens are struggling with right now,” she said, applauding The Depot for doing its part to try and assuage that.

“I also think it’s nice to get everybody outside and socializing safely,” Koorbusch added.

Five different kinds of fitness classes were presented gratis by several local vendors, including AKT, Joy Ride, Orange Theory, Casey McBride Yoga, and LYMBR, as well as the Darien YMCA.

Along with several sponsors who helped make the six-hour event happen in a tent in the parking lot behind the Post Office off Corbin Drive, nutritionists, therapists and food vendors also were on location.

“The way this year has been has been really tough for kids and they haven’t been eating well,” explained Amy Kiser, a nutritionists with Darien-based Jane Street Wellness.

“That contributes to weight gain and just feelings of depression,” she said. “Emotional eating has been the norm.”

Kiser explained that diet plays a key role in emotional health—one people tend to overlook.

“That’s part of the reason why I wanted to participate,” she said.

Kesti Aysseh, executive development director for The Depot, said that—as with most nonprofits—this has been a challenging time for her organization to maintain work on its mission.

“So any ways we can raise awareness and raise money are important,” she said.

More importantly, she said, the concept of reducing the stress level among young people in particular is an important focus.

“We’re really kind of focused on that teenage group,” said Tanya Stack, vice president of operations for the Darien YMCA.

She, too, noted issues among young people due to the isolation of the pandemic.

“So this is a safe way to bring the community and teens together to help reconnect as things get up and running again,” she said.