Home Social Justice Walk-the-Walk promotes mental health awareness

Walk-the-Walk promotes mental health awareness

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A group of young people, old people and everyone in between gathered in front of the Athens County Courthouse Saturday morning to walk in support of mental health awareness. The walk, called “Walk-the-Walk”, was held to recognize and educate people about mental illness.

The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) Athens organized the event. The idea behind the creation of their chapter was that they recognize mental health exists, said Greg Polzer, president of the local chapter of the statewide and nationwide organization that supports those suffering from mental illness.

Polzer said the walk is a learning opportunity for community members.

“For the younger folks, they are so much more open to enlightened ideas,” Polzer said as he gestured to some elementary-age children bouncing around with youthful energy as they waited for the walk to begin. “Young folks have more enthusiasm for the cause and we are glad to have them here.”

The walk went through the city stopping at The Ridges. Some participants then continued on to the new mental health hospital, Appalachian Behavioral Healthcare, for a free lunch and silent auction.

“Students have gotten the idea that that The Ridges is spooky, but it was actually a state-of-the-art mental hospital,” Polzer said.

All donations and proceeds from the walk went to NAMI. They will then make a donation to The Gathering Place, a local community support program promoting recovery for adults coping with mental illness.

Mental health has always been a big part of history in and around the Athens area. The Ridges operated for more than 100 years, from 1874 to 1993. Now, the Appalachian Behavioral Healthcare Hospital, a part of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, advocates for people with mental illness in the appalachian region.

With the growing recognition of mental illness, this walk is more important now than ever, said Polzer.

“We are supporting improvement of the lives of those with mental illness and those who support them. This is a human condition that we are trying to make better. These are people who happen to have mental illness. They are not ‘the mentally ill.’ We want to support them and their family members.”

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