Walk will spotlight mental health needs, services
Editor’s note: This story will appear in Healthy Living on Sunday, April 29.
BY DONYA CURRIE
On May 5, Lynn DelaMer will be walking for “the one in four.”
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates 26 percent of people, or one in four of us, will suffer a mental health problem in a given year.
“When I’m sitting in a room in a meeting and there are 12 people there, at least three people there have or are going to have a mental health challenge,” said DelaMer, executive director of Mental Health America of Fredericksburg. “One in four people, that’s a huge number. Cancer’s not that high.”
Yet mental health issues still carry a stigma that prevents some from accessing treatment, despite studies that show counseling and medication often can help.
So for the fifth year in a row, the Walk for Mental Wellness — at Hurkamp Park in Fredericksburg — will seek to raise awareness about mental health.
The event also aims to raise money for the local agency that works to link people with treatment and support. That support includes:
- The Senior Visitor Program, which pairs volunteers with elderly residents.
- Support groups for people who have lost a loved one to suicide or who struggle with depression.
- A Mental Health HelpLine. (800/684-MHAF)
The organization also maintains a lending library on mental health topics and advocates for policy change to improve access to mental health care.
“My whole viewpoint is, the more people who know about us, the more people will use our services,” said Cheryle Hodges, a board member of Mental Health America of Fredericksburg and this year’s walk chairperson. “We really need that awareness put out there.”
She pointed out, too, that the yearly walk is the agency’s main fundraiser.
“All the money we raise stays right here in our area, which I think is awesome,” Hodges said. “I would love to see us be able to fill that park with walkers who are raising money for Mental Health America.”
Good mental health is key for overall health and well-being. Researchers are increasingly making the connection between mental health problems and chronic disease.
For example, someone with diabetes or heart disease is more likely to suffer from depression, and the number of people with chronic disease continues to rise both nationally and in Virginia. Treating the depression can help the physical ailment.
A recent book on the link between post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic disease points to a need for family and community support in addition to treatment.
Yet DelaMer often hears of people forgoing mental health care, because of financial strain or the thought that such care is not a priority.
“Mental health seems to keep being put on that back burner,” she said.
Mental Health American of Fredericksburg will continue to work to change that mindset and link people with the support they need. The local agency relies on United Way funding and donations to survive.
“I think until people need our services, they don’t know who we are,” DelaMer said. “But I think when they find us, they’re delighted.”
For more information, call Mental Health America of Fredericksburg at 540/371-2704, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit mhafred.org.
- The Walk for Mental Wellness starts at 10 a.m. May 5 at Hurkamp Park in Fredericksburg. Register in advance at mhafred.org, or at the park an hour before the race. Registration fee is $25; prizes are awarded for raising $50, $75 or $100. Other events Saturday include a silent auction and live music.
- On May 4 at 7 p.m., mental health advocates will hold a candlelight vigil at Hurkamp Park. Former state Sen. Edd Houck will speak and be honored for being “a huge mental health advocate,” said Lynn DelaMer. At 5 p.m. Friday, an exhibit featuring artwork by people with mental health challenges opens at the pawnshop at 712 Caroline St.
Donya Currie is a freelance writer in Stafford County who regularly contributes to Healthy Living and other health-related publications, including the AARP Bulletin. You can write to her at healthyliving@freelancestar .com.