Sponsoring Two Ladies On A Mission: The National Alliance on Mental Illness 5k Walk
Normally on Sunday morning you’d find me dead asleep (and god help anyone who would try to wake me up) but today I made an exception. Because today was New Hampshire’s largest mental health celebration, NAMIwalks, a 5k walk hosted by the New Hampshire chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and The Mountain was sponsoring two participants, Miranda Ervin and Nicole Souza. I decided to join them.
Miranda (left wearing Jungle Skull by Ali Gulec) works for Opportunity Networks, a company based in Southern NH that helps people 18 or older living with developmental disabilities learn and do daily tasks, things that you or I might take for granted, such as working, shopping, socializing, even brushing their teeth, or going to the bathroom. Miranda is a “1 to 1”, which means she mainly works one on one with a single client at a time. Currently she is helping a young lady living with Autism.
Nicole (right wearing Russo Elephant by Dean Russo) works for The Guild for Human Services, a special needs school that works with kids from 10 to 22 with varying developmental disabilities, mainly autism, but also mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, or multiple personalities. The facility is residential, so the majority of kids reside there full time. During the day they attend school, and at night they focus on daily living essentials, which can be anything from how to use a spoon to socializing.
It couldn’t have been a better autumn day for a walk. It was a little too cold for our liking at first (a few degrees colder and we probably could have seen our breath), but it didn’t take long for the sun to warm us up.
Miranda, Nicole, and Brittany Decelle (middle), a friend who signed up for the race at the last minute, quickly registered, then we made our way around the different booths, most offering information on mental illness and how NAMI advocates, educates, and supports those with mental illness as well as their friends and families.
For example, Miranda attended a suicide prevention training class for mental health professionals that NAMI hosted. The class taught her how to identify warning signs, and how to intervene before anything happens.
SERVICE DOGS LIKE TO WALK TOO
It turns out, the walk wasn't just for humans. Therapy dogs can be a huge help to some suffering from mental illness, so they were welcomed with open arms to the NAMI walk.
They came in all breeds and sizes. Some were even dressed up, which I thought was odd seeing as it was still 27 days until Halloween, but Miranda informed me there was a costume contest being held before the race. It was a fun way to showcase and honor the service dogs that do so much.
By the time we lined up to start the walk, hundreds had gathered on the Concord soccer fields, each impacted by mental illness in some way or another.
We began walking, snaking through downtown Concord, drawing a lot of attention, enjoying each other's company, and before we knew it we had circled back to the end with a flashy finish line.
Yesterday, NAMI posted a reminder on their Facebook page about the event. In the post they stated, “One in 4 adults and one in 5 kids in NH are affected by mental illness; we all have a reason to walk”. Today we came together to offer our support for those people, to let them know, “We hear you. You are not alone”.
If you are interested to learn more about the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and how they can help, or about future NAMIwalks please visit their website: http://www.naminh.org/