Members of the National Alliance on Mental Illness group in Castle Country took part in a NAMIWalk on Saturday Sept. 18 to help raise money and awareness about mental health issues.
The sixth annual NAMIWalk took place in Salt Lake City where people gathered at Sprint Mobile Ballpark at 10 a.m. and then did a 5K walk around the surrounding area.
This year there were 1,700 walkers total and so far the walk has raised over $85,000, but that number is expected to rise once all of the funds are tallied, said Sherri Wittwer, executive director with NAMI Utah. The fund-raising goal for the 2010 walk was $75,000. To compare, in 2009 the NAMIWalk brought out 1,023 people and raised over $63,000, according to the NAMI Utah Website.
"It was our best walk ever with the most participation we've ever had," Wittwer said, noting that the yearly walk is considered to be the biggest fundraiser of the year for NAMI Utah. "The goal of the walk is to raise awareness of mental illness and we feel it's very important to inform the public about this."
There were 91 teams total that participated in the walk which included people from the state hospital, sports teams, suicide survivors, families and people who care deeply about mental illness and more.
The NAMI Castle Country group brought three people up to the walk and helped raise over $370 for NAMI Utah, according to Gary Anderson, president of NAMI Castle Country.
This was the first NAMIWalk for Anderson who said it was an eye-opening to take part in the event.
"It was a good learning experience for me," Anderson said. "My eyes were opened up that mental illness doesn't just affect one group of people. It can affect people of all different races. It's also good to see people come together who didn't know each other very well that were working together for a common goal."
The money raised from the walk will be distributed to NAMI groups around the state, which will help implement more programs and continue to help raise awareness of mental illness in communities.
"With the fund-raising money we can continue to help break down the walls and better educate the community to know that people who suffer from mental illness are common folk," Anderson said.
Raising money for a good cause and being able to hear different ideas from new sources from around the state was very helpful, said Sheri Davies, vice-president with NAMI Castle Country.
"I'm excited to be able to put money to good use for NAMI in our community," Davies said.
A NAMI Castle Country support group, Connection, meets every Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Sun Advocate office. The group is also offering classes at Castleview Hospital, including BRIDGES and Family to Family, which helps raise awareness of what people go through with mental illness. The classes are currently ongoing but will be offered again in the Spring.
The overall experience of meeting and talking with others from around the state who deal with mental illness or have a family member or friend living with a mental illness was something the NAMI Castle Country group can use going forward to help the area better understand mental illness, Anderson said.
"We can use the experience from the NAMIWalk to help break down the stigma of mental illness and the barriers that people seem to have when discussing mental illness," Anderson said. "Mental illnesses are a real medical problem and there are people out there who need help."
"We're all just human," Davies said. "Just because a person is dealing with mental health issues doesn't mean that they are any different than anyone else."
For more information about NAMI Utah, visit their Website at www.namiut.org. For more information about the NAMI Castle Country group call (435) 637-1371.