The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) celebrated their 16th year of “NAMI Walks” being the nation’s largest mental health awareness and fundraising event. September is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the 2019 NAMI walk was celebrated with friends, family, vendors, and other organizations in Memorial Park. The 5K walk began with participants and volunteers making their way to Carroll College. A total of 437 people walked, separated into 45 teams, and walked in unison to advocate for mental health awareness.
Also on Sunday, an "Out Of The Darkness" walk was held at Gibson Park in Great Falls; it was for anyone who advocates for suicide prevention, has lost someone to suicide, or who struggles with mental health. "It's very, very rare for anyone in the state of Montana to not be affected by suicide in general, but to not be affected by mental health. So I think that even though we may not want to recognize it publicly, we do need to see that we are affected, whether it's our coworkers, our friends, kids we are dealing with, we're really struggling and we need to know we're not alone,” explained Tiffany Sweeny, the chairwoman of the event.
About 56% of the NAMI Walk’s fundraising goals were met this year, with $84,000 raised toward their goal of $150,00.
It's estimated that about 20% of children from the ages of 13-18 experience some form of mental illness and 43.8 million adults, nationwide, suffer from depression in a given year.
NAMI spokesman Pete Aspinwall, told MTN News about the significance of the walk: “The whole idea behind the NAMI walk is to help dispel and lessen this whole idea of stigma that's been attached to mental illness, by making people much more aware of what mental illness is and what it is not.”
He continued, “The idea is to kind of squash stigmas as much as we can, to educate people about mental illness, and to make people aware of all of the organizations that are here to help.”
For more information on the NAMI organization and how to participate, click here to visit the website .