May 29, 2018. By Jennifer Wolfsberg:

Struggles with behavioral health and mental illness take many forms and exist on a vast spectrum of severity. One thing that remains constant, however, is how challenging it is for those dealing with these struggles, either personally or as care takers, to find trustworthy and reliable resources for assistance.  Additionally, it’s difficult to find support due to the lack of knowledge and inappropriate stigmas surrounding mental illness.

On Saturday, May 19, 2018, the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts (NAMI Mass) held its 15th annual Walkathon, NAMIWalks, along the Charles River at DCR Artesani  Park in Boston.  Each year, this empowering event increases public awareness to help combat the stigma surrounding mental illness. The Walk is the organization’s largest event and biggest fundraiser of the year. The money raised helps NAMI Mass provide educational programs, support groups, grassroots advocacy, and the NAMI Mass Compass, their resource helpline. Through fundraising efforts, these programs are offered free of charge to participants. As part of the firm’s Year of Giving initiative and in continued support of Advocates, my family and I participated in this year’s walk to raise awareness and funds for NAMI.

As referenced in their tagline for the walk — “Celebrate Recovery and Stomp Out Stigma” — the underlying theme is to spark real conversations about mental illness to eradicate stereotypes about those struggling with challenges such as substance abuse, post traumatic stress, eating disorders, and more.

If you or a loved one are struggling to find the resources you need to overcome hurdles with mental illness, NAMI offers a plethora of useful links, such as those listed below:

NAMI Mass Compass: Your Guide to Mental Health Resources
Children & Families
Education, Employment & Training
Food, Fuel, Utilities, Transportation and Financial Assistance
Guardianship & Special Needs Trusts
Housing & Shelter
Publications & Information
Legal Resources
Medications, Health Insurance & Insurance
Mental and Medical Health Services
Research Studies and Clinical Trials
Substance Use and Treatment
Teens and the Transition Years
Veterans and Active Duty Service Members

Participating in the walk was a refreshing experience, and not just due to the perfect spring weather which held just until we crossed the finish line. Hearing participants speak openly about their experiences, sharing resources, and ideas alike, provided a sense of community that is often missing from discussions centered on these deeply personal topics.  It was a great lesson to learn how helpful open communication can be both to those with mental illness or behavioral health issues and those supporting loved ones through their struggles.