The NAMIWalks Your Way Iowa 5K, a mental health fundraiser, will take place virtually on Oct. 10, 2020. Now in its 14th year, the event promotes the organization’s mission of advocacy, education and support for those living with mental illness.
Zach Blevins, the outreach and events manager for NAMI Iowa and a 2017 Drake University graduate, has been working with NAMI’s walk for three years.
“We’re really just trying to promote awareness of mental health and trying to reduce stigma by giving people a platform to share their story and talk openly about mental health,” Blevins said.
The event, taking place on World Mental Health Day, can be done from anywhere and doesn’t have to be a 5K.
“On that day, we are encouraging folks to create their own walk experience and they can do that whatever way works best for them,” Blevins said. “They could cook, they could knit, we’re encouraging them to participate in whatever way they want to get active or be productive that day.”
The day will start with a Facebook livestream that will include different speakers sharing their stories, information about NAMI resources and building on the conversation that you are not alone.
“Often, speaking of one’s own struggles is considered inappropriate or ‘taboo’ and I believe that having uncomfortable conversations is the only way to make any progress away from that mindset,” Drake Rise Up president Kaylee Farmer said.
Farmer shares a similar passion for mental health advocacy.
“I joined because of how impacted my life has been by mental health and suicide,” Farmer said. “As mental illness affects much of my family, it became much more important to me to be an active voice in ending the stigma of mental illness.”
According to NAMI, nearly one in five adults in the U.S. live with a mental illness, making it more important than ever to have open and honest conversations about mental health.
“It’s important to spread awareness about mental health because it is a bedrock for everybody,” Blevins said. “There’s nobody who isn’t affected by mental health and we want people to know that it’s okay to talk about it and we want to try to break down as much stigma around mental illness as possible so that people know that there are resources out there, and there is help.”
The 2020 event will not require registration fees, a change from previous years.
“We try to make the event as open and accessible as possible so we do encourage people to raise funds if they are able as that goes back to supporting our mission of advocacy, education and support,” Blevins said. “We want any and all who are interested in joining to help us out on this day and help stop [the] stigma around mental illness overall.”
To register for the NAMIWalks Your Way event, visit namiwalks.org/iowa.