Take a walk for mental health awareness this May

April 26, 2024
Dustin Lapray, Division of Behavioral Health

Mental illness is a private medical condition that one in four Idahoans face, but just because it’s private doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be part of the public discourse.

Bringing mental health into the public conversation is the intent of the NAMI Walks, to be held in Idaho’s largest cities this May. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has held the walks in Boise in the past, but with the help of Rotary International, and Idaho’s local Rotarians, NAMI is stretching its legs statewide.

“NAMI Walks is about being very public, saying ‘it’s OK if you’re not OK’ … You’re not alone,” said Beth Markley, executive director of NAMI Idaho. “We all deal with these things, so let’s get together.”

Get together and “walk” about them, in big groups or small. Exercise helps reduce stress and can help people with mental illness. Walking together in public breaks down stigma, but also creates fellowship, Markley said. It can also help isolated people not feel alone.

NAMI organized the events in the hub cities, but anyone anywhere can host events this May for Mental Health Awareness Month. In Lewiston, there will be an unofficial walk, with a picnic. Others have done jump rope competitions.

Markley said we ought not hide our stigma, but rather bring into the open that mental illness should not come with derision or scorn. She talked about the cancer correlation, how afraid people used to be to talk about the disease, but now Idahoans confidently share how cancer affects them. The same breakthrough can happen with mental illness.

“Stigma is a factor in the isolation and loneliness that exacerbates a lot of mental health conditions,” Markley said. “There is a ripple effect, to families, communities, places of employment.”

The NAMI Walks are free, but they are also a fundraiser for NAMI’s year-long programs and services around the state. NAMI’s website has a calendar, a resource tab for faith members, military, teens, frontline workers, and lots of ways to get involved in your community (statewide programs and services, education programs for people with mental health disorders and families, statewide support groups.)

Information expos, tables, and representatives from partner organizations will be present at the walks.

2024 NAMI Walks: Click here to Register
May 4 – Coeur d'Alene: Landings Park  
May 4 – Twin Falls: Canyon Rim Trail
May 11 – Pocatello: Bonneville Park
May 25 – Boise: Anne Morrison Park + Greenbelt
June 1 – Idaho Falls: The Waterfront

Dustin Lapray is a public involvement officer with the Division of Behavioral health at DHW.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov.

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