PUBLISHED SEPT. 29, 2016
By LOIS KINDLE
The Hillsborough chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness aims to cast a new light on mental health issues. As part of that goal, it will host its inaugural Making Strides for Mental Health 3K Walk/Run from 9 a.m. to noon, Oct. 8, at Camp Cristina, 98450 Balm Riverview Road, Riverview.
“We need to stop defining people by their illness, whether mental of physical,” said Karen Fredricks, NAMI Hillsborough president. “This walk is about making strides for mental health and removing the stigma associated with issues involving the brain. Recognizing the person should always come first; an illness or condition doesn’t define all of who they are.”
Fredricks said studies show one in four people currently have serious mental health issues, including schizophrenia, depression and bipolar mood disorder. Many of those who are affected — including families — suffer in silence for fear of others stigmatizing them. NAMI wants to change that.
While the Oct. 8 event is a fundraiser for the 501(c)3 organization, it’s equally intended to raise awareness.
NAMI Hillsborough is associated with NAMI Florida and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Founded in 1977 by two mothers whose sons were living with schizophrenia, the national nonprofit group now has more than 1,000 local affiliates.
NAMI Hillsborough’s mission is to assist, educate and provide advocacy for folks living with mental health issues, their families and loved ones. It was formed in 1987.
“NAMI brought me the education I needed to help people (including families) who live with the experience of isolation and stigmatization caused by myths — not facts associated with mental illness,” said Carol Eloian, past president of NAMI Hillsborough. “Through NAMI’s educational, advocacy and support programs (and events like this walk), we are standing up with folks who want to move the community forward so we can embrace each other as human beings and not by illness.”
There is no fee to participate in Making Strides. Participants can walk as individuals, part of an existing team or with a team they start themselves.
The event will include face painting by the East Bay High School Key Club, lawn games, vendors like Gracepoint and Brandon Regional Hospital and light refreshments.
“We are in this together, we are all affected,” Fredricks said. “We want people from every walk of life, every occupation, every religion (and so on) to join this walk. Please feel to bring a banner representing the group you’re with.”
Volunteers are needed for registration, parking and more on the day of the event. To help out or for additional information on Making Strides, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To register in advance or make a donation in support of the cause, go to namihillsborough.org and look for the yellow “Donate” button on the upper right.