Monday, September 29, 2014

People Affected By Mental Illness: Everyone knows someone

Regular readers of this blog have probably gathered by now that I am quite fond of Montana, the state in which I live. There is a lot I love about Montana - but not the high incidence of suicide here.  Montana ranks as one of the states with the highest per capita suicide rates in the US. 

Often, but not always, victims of suicide have suffered from depression or other mental illnesses.  It is time we find a way to reduce the stigma related to these conditions, and lower the incidence of suicide. The “be tough and shake it off” mentality which generations of Montanans have applied in so many circumstances just doesn't work in these instances.  It is like telling someone with cancer to ignore it and it will go away.  Fortunately, work is being done to increase awareness, and provide resources and treatments for people with mental illnesses and suicidal tendencies.

Our team of walkers - just a fraction of the supporters that turned out for the Montana 2014 NAMIWalk.
NAMI Montana, the Montana Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “supports, educates, and advocates for Montanans with severe mental illnesses and their families.”  Yesterday (9/28/14), the 11th annual NAMIWalk was held in Helena, MT.  The purpose of this event is to raise funds and awareness, and to show support for people dealing with mental illness. According to a speaker prior to the walk and the NAMI Montana website, “One in five Montana families are affected by mental illness.” Last year, the slogan on the t-shirts of the walkers was “everyone knows someone.”

Unfortunately, most Montanans have been touched in some way by suicide.  A moment of silence was held for a community member, the Director of Counseling Services at Carroll College, who died just a week ago. His obituary stated he died “of depression after a long and courageous battle.”   

My thoughts were also with a family I know quite well, whose high school-aged son committed suicide last year. It is absolutely heartbreaking to attend the funeral of a person so young. Even in their grief, the parents of this boy recognized the problem of youth suicide, and encouraged the young people in attendance to seek help if it was ever needed.

Yesterday was overcast and chilly, with a high probability of rain; sprinkles began to fall at the beginning of the program.  Despite the dismal day, people turned out in droves for the event.  Looking at the long, long line of adults, children, strollers and dogs on leashes that snaked ahead and behind me as we walked our 5-K show of support, I felt hope. The number of walkers has swollen over the years I've been attending this event. The rain stopped and the clouds lifted a little. I began to believe that Montanans - and humans in general - will find a way to conquer mental illness. 

The suicide rate in Montana is alarming.  But today, I was proud of the attempts Montanans are making to lower that statistic.

My husband and I - in our bright orange Montana 2014 NAMIWalk shirts.
To read more about Montana 2014 NAMIWalk, click here, and to learn more about NAMI click here.
Is there a NAMI State Organization or Affiliate where you live?

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  1. Such an important cause Susan, and I'm so glad you wrote about it today. I think people are finally starting to realize that mental illness is a disease and needs to be treated as such. There's a long way to go though. Sounds like a fun day, even with the weather!

    1. A very long way - but some steps were taken (pun intended!) with every event such as this walk.

  2. Such an important cause - and one that is very dear to my heart. Thank you for walking, thank you for caring, thank you for this post.

    1. I was thinking about the post you wrote, Out of the Shadows, Into the Light, as we walked, and I told several people about your walk in Australia - and about RU OK day,which I had not heard of before.
      I DO care - and so do a lot of people. I'm happy that you liked my post. Best wishes for staying in the light, EC.


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