By LOIS KINDLE
According to statistics compiled by NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, mental health disorders and illnesses affect more than 57 million Americans each year. And many of those affected receive no help.
Part of that is due to a serious lack of funding for mental health services, and part is due to a lack of public awareness.
To help address both locally, the Hillsborough County chapter of NAMI will host its second annual Making Strides for Mental Health 3K Walk/Run Nov. 4 at YMCA Camp Cristina, 9840 Balm Riverview Road, Riverview.
“There is an overwhelming need in the county for referral and support services for individuals with life experiences and their families and a need to build awareness,” said NAMI Hillsborough’s immediate past president and event organizer Karen Fredricks. “These kinds of services and organizations that support them are sorely underfunded.”
National Alliance on Mental Illness Hillsborough, which is associated with NAMI Florida and the National Alliance on Mental Health, is one of those organizations.
“We don’t receive any national, state or county government funding,” Fredricks said. “All of our support comes from fundraisers like this —individual gifts and a couple of grants.”
Proceeds from the Making Strides for Mental Health 3K Walk/Run will help NAMI Hillsborough complete its mission of providing a variety of support programs for those living with mental health disorders and illnesses, their caregivers and their families.
The event will begin with registration and refreshments from 8 to 9:30 a.m. and be followed by the 3K and festivities from 9:30 a.m. to noon. There is no entry fee and participants can walk as individuals, with a team they form themselves or as part of an existing team.
The Making Strides event will include face painting by the East Bay High School Key Club, vendors and lawn games.
“It’s quick-paced and has a festival feel,” Fredricks said.
Last year’s event drew more than 400 participants of all ages and raised close to $25,000.
“It was a very diverse group,” Fredricks said. “We had young, old, even some in wheelchairs. Everyone is welcome.”
Fredricks noted how important such support is.
“Most of us have had a personal experience or someone in our family who has been touched by issues related to mental health,” she said. “We know how difficult it is to reach out for support options. So many people live in silence in the fear of discovery and of being judged or stigmatized.”
National Alliance on Mental Illness Hillsborough wants people to know they don’t have to live like that.
“There are many of us who have first-hand understanding and want to help folks navigate their way to support,” Fredricks added. “That’s what we’re here for.”
National Alliance on Mental Illness Hillsborough’s current NAMI president agrees.
“Mental health disorders and illnesses truly touch everyone’s life in some way,” said Ashley Wynn, who acknowledged her family has been among those affected. As a result, she made a commitment to NAMI to set up a system within our community to inform other families how to support their loved ones.
“The Making Strides for Mental Health 3K Walk Run is all about raising awareness, providing educational opportunities and raising funds to continue providing our programs for free.”
Volunteers are needed at the event for registration, parking and other activities. To help or get more information, email email@example.com or call 813-273-8104.