By CRISTINA JANNEY
After a pause, the National Alliance on Mental Illness Hays affiliate is sponsoring an in-person NAMI Walk on Saturday.
The walk will begin at 10 am at Municipal Park at the east shelter near the tennis courts. Walkers are invited to walk up to three miles along the dike next to the Fort Hays State University campus.
The walk will be in conjunction with a similar event in Topeka, as well as other walks occurring across the nation to celebrate the United Day of Hope. This is the first year NAMI will have walks again in person after two years of having virtual walks because of COVID.
The walks are aimed at bringing awareness to mental illness, as well as raising money to support NAMI programs.
You can donate to affiliates across the country by going to the NAMI Walks webpage and clicking on United Day of Hope: May 21.
Anastasia Condon, walk manager for NAMI Kansas, said people often establish teams in memory of loved ones who have died by suicide. Family members of people who have mental illness are also encouraged to walk.
The fundraising goal for NAMI Kansas is $ 100,000 of which more than $ 41,000 has already been donated.
Fifty percent of all the funds raised in Hays will stay in the community to support programs, including classes, support groups and advocacy programs. All the resources and classes NAMI provides are free. Information shared in classes and support groups is confidential.
NAMI Hays offers a Connections support group for people who have a mental illness at 7 pm on the first and third Mondays of the month at the Center for Life Experience, 103 E. 27th St., Hays. The NAMI family support group is offered at 7 pm on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month also at the Center for Life Experience.
Both support groups are offered in-person in Hays, as well as online.
Peer to Peer and Family to Family education programs are offered by NAMI throughout the year.
For more information on how to participate in any local NAMI class or group, email [email protected] or call the Center for Life Experience at 785-259-6859.
“What I don’t think people realize is all the resources available through NAMI,” said Corrina Hudsonpillar, the new chairperson of the NAMI Hays steering committee. “I didn’t realize until I first became associated with NAMI. There are so many resources that are offered free, which is beautiful.”
She said she hopes events like the walk can help people become more aware and be more comfortable talking about mental illness.
“The more we can talk about mental health, the better it is for everybody,” she said.
Although more discussions are happening about mental illness, Hudsonpillar said stigma still persists.
“People don’t talk about, ‘I’m going to see my therapist today,'” she said. “But they’re not afraid to say, ‘I’m going to go to the doctor today,’ or ‘I’m going to go to the chiropractor today,’ ‘I’m going to go to the dentist.’ Instead, when they are going to the therapist, they say they have an appointment.
“We want people to talk about that more and know that it’s normal.”
The NAMI Walk is open to anyone in the community who wishes to join. Children, and pets on leashes are welcome. You don’t have to donate to participate.
Hudsonpillar said those who can’t make the organized event are encouraged to walk on their own any distance they wish.
Exercise is an important part of mental health, as well as physical health, she said.
Hudsonpillar said she hopes to grow the walk in Hays in the future.
Cristina Janney is a member of NAMI.