What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversations about illnesses that affect not only individuals but their families as well."

- -Glenn Close

The Oscar-nominated actress has a very intimate knowledge of what it is like to have a family deeply impacted by mental health issues. Her sister, Jessie, is bi-polar and her nephew Calen is schizophrenic. She has made it her goal to destigmatize mental illness, by simply getting people to talk about it.

If only because statistics make it clear that mental illness is a common occurrence, it needs to be brought out of the darkness and into the light.

Almost 44 million Americans will deal with a mental illness in any given year. That sorts out to 1 in 5 people and also includes 10 million Americans who live with a long-term or lifelong mental illness.

I am one of the 10 million. Depression has been my adversarial companion for over half of my life. That is why Mental Health Awareness Month, which is always observed in May, has a deep meaning for me, and millions of others.

Thanks to organizations like NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and NAMI South Dakota, mental health issues are being discussed more openly and people are more willing to reach out for help. But, there is still a long way to go.

The mission of NAMI South Dakota is "to provide education, support, and advocacy for individuals and families impacted by mental illness".

The NAMI Walks event has been a major fundraiser for that mission in years past and this year is no exception. The walk will, however, be very different this time around.

Saturday, May 30, has been declared a National Day of Hope, and the day that NAMI Walks Your Way: A Virtual Event will be taking place all over the country and right here in South Dakota.

You can register to participate or simply donate to support the great work NAMI does. And yes, it is "your way" this year. Which means you can do any activity you would like. Some of the ideas from participants who have already registered include:

  • Walking 3,500 steps for a "5K their way"
  • Walking a 5K on a treadmill or stationary bike
  • Planning a craft day with your kids
  • Holding a bake-off with your team
  • Spending time doing a favorite hobby, like, yoga, gardening, even knitting
  • Hosting a virtual paint and sip party

You're only limited by your imagination. While you're doing your thing, take photos and videos and share your activity on a favorite social media with the link to your walk fundraising page and the hashtag#NotAlone and #MentalHealthForAll.

For complete information on how to participate with hints and tips on activities and ways to fundraise, check out the NAMI Walks Your Way participation guide, see NAMI Walks: Your Way online and on Facebook.

If you, a family member, or someone you care about, is in crisis, you can reach out immediately at these numbers:

  • Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-SUICIDE
  • Helpline at 211
  • NAMI information line - 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
  • Veteran's Crisis Line - 1-800-273-8255

For more information and/or help, see NAMI South Dakota online and on Facebook.

Sources: NAMI South Dakota, NAMI Walks Your Way, and NAMI Walks Your Way Participant Guide.

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