ARLINGTON, Va., April 7 -- NFL quarterback Terry Bradshaw. Nobel Prize winner John Nash. President Abraham Lincoln. Profiles of courage and recovery from mental illness. Today, tens of thousands of Americans are taking to the streets to raise public awareness that recovery is indeed possible.
Sponsored by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) -- the nation's largest grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with mental illnesses -- NAMIWalks will raise a profile of hope in 50 locations in 38 states during April and May (Mental Health Month), and during the summer and fall -- including October's Mental Illness Awareness Week.
The walkathons raise money for research, education, support and advocacy. For lists of teams and celebrated sponsors, visit http://www.nami.org/namiwalks.
"NAMIWalks are an amazing phenomenon," said NAMI executive director Michael Fitzpatrick. "You don't have to be famous to raise awareness. Friends and neighbors come together, many of whom may not have mental illness in their own families, but still know someone affected by depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or other conditions."
One in five Americans are affected by mental illness. The U.S. Surgeon General and both presidents Clinton and Bush have called for an end to the stigma that sometimes surrounds mental illnesses. Instead, they have encouraged people to get help when they need it.
"NAMIWalks are about individuals and families," Fitzpatrick said. "They are about education. They are about communities and the future."
"Every walk site is unique. Some are statewide. Others are local."
"Many include balloons, banners and music. In 2003, NAMI held a dozen walks. This year there are 50. They continue to grow nationwide. They are an amazing grassroots success story. They are a celebration of dignity, courage and recovery.
"Most of all, they are about hope."
NAMI has 220,000 members nationwide and 1000 state and local affiliates.
NAMIWALK DATES AND LOCATIONS
April 16 Phoenix, AZ; San Diego, CA; Naples, FL
April 23 Knoxville, TN
April 29 Waukesha, WI
April 30 Memphis, TN
May 1 Columbia, MD
May 7 Wilmington, DE; Iowa City, IA; Hays and Topeka, KS;
Portland, ME; Columbus, OH; Dallas, TX
May 14 Fresno, CA; Orlando, FL; Davenport, IA; Boston, MA;
Jackson, MS; Albuquerque, NM; Cincinnati, OH; Greenville, SC
May 15 Long Island/Queens, NY
May 21 San Francisco, CA; Hartford, CT; Lake Charles, LA; Detroit, MI;
Sioux Falls, SD; Nashville, TN; Seattle, WA; Charleston, WV
May 22 Ventura, CA; Portland, OR
May 28 St. Louis, MO
July 24 Salt Lake City, UT
Sept 24 Anchorage, AK; Harrisburg, PA
Oct 1 Los Angeles, CA; Orange County, CA; Atlanta, GA; Charlotte, NC;
Oct 2 Concord, NH; Oklahoma City, OK (tentative); Austin, TX
Oct 8 Winston-Salem, NC; Akron, OH; Toledo, OH; Helena, MT (tentative)
Oct 29 Washington, D.C.