Supports education and awareness of mental health issues
■ By Brenda Scott / Contributed
Last Saturday, over 2,200 eager participants joined the 5K+ walk at Diamond Valley Lake. This was the 13th annual NAMIWalk held at the same site southwest of Hemet. The NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) nationwide walk events are the largest and most successful mental health awareness and fundraising events held in the country. This year, NAMIWalks celebrated its 16th anniversary as a national organization.
The goal for Inland Empire NAMIWalk was $110,000. They exceeded $86,000 from the 2,200+ participants who visited the Diamond Valley Lake Marina where the walk took place. Funds were received from individual walker entry fees, funds raised by walker teams, plus sponsor fees and donations.
One team that returns every year was created by Mary Rust who is a retired school administrator for Hemet Unified School District. Her team name is Educators 4 NAMI. This year, Rust brought a team of walkers with a goal of $4,500. She has been a team captain for all 13 years of the walk. As a school administrator for Hemet Unified, Rust worked with students with mental health concerns.
The stigma of mental health is difficult to overcome when you have a child who is experiencing challenges. Rust retired from Hemet Unified in 2005 and was a team captain for the 1st NAMIWalk in 2006. Her team includes many teachers, retired teachers and administrators. She invites anyone to join her team who cares about children’s mental health concerns. She said, “Educating youth at a younger age on mental health is very important.”
Rust said that the UCR Dean’s office was also on her team, and the local chapter of California Retired Teachers Association had a table at the event and is a supporter of NAMI. She said she is always encouraging teachers and administrators to learn more about mental health so we can support the students and families in our valley who are experiencing difficulties.
One of NAMI’s signature programs is Ending the Silence for Students, where the local San Jacinto chapter of NAMI goes into high schools to talk to the freshman class about mental health.
Participants at NAMI Walks join a nationwide movement to raise awareness of mental illness issues and generate funds to help individuals and families in the local area. This year’s Honorary Chair for the NAMIWalk was City of Hemet Council member Bonnie Wright. Council member Wright addressed the group before they walked in the morning and read a proclamation signed by Mayor Mike Perciful that states the City of Hemet encourages all citizens of the Valley to help raise awareness of mental illness and support the efforts of our healthcare workers in the diagnosis and treatment of this disease.
The local Mt. San Jacinto chapter of NAMI has weekly support group meetings for persons who experience mental health symptoms as well as monthly support group meetings for families. They also hold a monthly education meeting featuring speakers who educate the audience on mental health topics.
NAMI also has an education program called Family to Family which is a 12-week course taught in English and Spanish in the local area. Families who participate are educated on mental health symptoms, how the brain works, self-care, how to support their relatives, and other topics important to families dealing with members with a mental condition. The main focus is on recovery and the fact that many intelligent, gifted, talented people have mental health conditions and live successful lives in our society.
NAMI tries to educate the public on the importance of early intervention and early treatment in mental health. NIMH (National Institute on Mental Health) states that one in 5 people in the U.S. is affected by mental health, and one person in 17 has a major mental health condition like Schizophrenia, Bipolar, Major Depression, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), Borderline Personality Disorder, Anxiety, or OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
NAMI educational programs in the community state that 57 million Americans are affected by mental health conditions and two-thirds of them will not seek treatment due to stigma and lack of education on mental health. If the disease was heart disease, cancer or diabetes, they would seek help, but mental health is considered a taboo topic by many and you are expected to “snap out of it” or “just get over it.”
Contact for the local chapter of NAMI is Brenda Scott, (951) 765-1850 or via email at Brenda.Scott@NAMImsj.org. Monthly meetings are held on the fourth Monday of the month at the Spirit of Joy Church in Hemet. Meeting dates and times are posted on the website: http://www.namimtsanjacinto.org. Like all of NAMI’s programs and support groups, these meetings are free.
About the author: Brenda Scott is Executive Director of the San Jacinto Valley chapter of NAMI.