Participants in the walk travel through Grand Rapids to raise awareness for mental health.
Courtesy / Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan
May has been mental health month for decades, and one local organization has created an event to celebrate and bring awareness to this month and the stigmas surrounding mental health. The 16th annual Stomp Out Stigma Walk for mental health will be taking place this Saturday, May 19.
The walk, hosted by the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, starts at the Grand Valley State University Seward parking lot in Grand Rapids, and will span three miles along the Riverwalk. There is also a shortcut available for those who wish to walk one mile instead of three.
According to its website, the mission of the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan is “to create communities that have good mental health by inspiring people to recognize, understand, accept and take action.”
The overall goal of the walk is to bring awareness to issues surrounding mental health.
“We wanted to create an event to raise awareness about mental health and decrease the stigma,” said Kandice Sloop, program coordinator for the Mental Health Foundation. “We know that stigma is the number one reason individuals don’t seek treatment or don’t talk about their mental health. We wanted to create a community that understands and supports those who have a mental health disorder.”
This walk provides an opportunity for people to connect with one another and learn about mental health in a sociable way. “I just love the day of the walk – seeing everyone come together for such an awesome and important topic,” Sloop said. “Some of the teams make their own t-shirts, so I love seeing everyone in those. A lot of our teams are people who are walking in memory of someone they lost to suicide, and I think this is an event that can connect some of these families together.”
The event benefits more than just those in attendance. While registration for the event is free, proceeds from the walk will go to the Mental Health Foundation’s “be nice.” and “Live Laugh Love: Educating Youth About Mental Health” education programs.
Through these programs, the foundation teaches students about mental health, as well as helping dispel stigmas and stereotypes at a young age. “Our goal this year is to reach even more people with our ‘be nice.’ action plan,” Sloop explained. “We hope to raise more money so we can continue to educate about mental health, and we hope to have an even bigger attendance at (this year’s) walk.”
Registration for the walk is free, but those who raise money will receive a walk t-shirt. Attendees are set to gather at 8 a.m., and the walk will start at 9 a.m. Sloop described the event as “a super fun walk that helps start conversations about our mental health.” Those interested in learning about mental health in a new, social way can register for the event and find more information at https://www.benice.org.