2012-05-03 / News

Eighth annual “Walk a Mile In My Shoes” on May 9

Residents attend rally to promote mental health awareness and reduce stigma

Michigan’s 46 Community Mental Health agencies are hosting the eighth annual “Walk-a-Mile In My Shoes” rally at the state Capitol on Wednesday, May 9. A number of Schoolcraft, Mackinac and Chippewa County residents, including members of A Place to Go, the Drop-In Center in Sault Ste. Marie, members of the RICC Committee in Schoolcraft and Chippewa counties, members of Reflections Group in Schoolcraft County and Hiawatha Behavior Health Peer Support Specialists plan to attend the event to lobby state legislators about mental health issues and to help combat the stigmas and prejudices associated with mental illnesses, developmental disabilities and substance use disorders.

Eighty-three people who use CMH services, one from each county in the state, will deliver brief statements from the capitol steps about the status of the public mental health system in their counties.

The Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards, the educational and political arm of the CMHs in the state, is organizing the rally. MACMHB expects more than 2,200 people at the event, including people who use CMH services, people who work in the CMH system and mental health advocates of all stripes. The inaugural event attracted 800 people in 2005 and has been growing annually, reaching more than 2,000 last year.

The rally starts at 1:30 p.m. on the front lawn of the Michigan Capitol.

“The rally helps showcase the importance of addressing issues facing people with mental illness, developmental disabilities and substance use disorders,” said Lisa Hinkson, CEO of Hiawatha Behavioral Health.

“We have marched in the rally since its inauguration in 2005, and we are eager to once again join advocates from across the state to bring our message to the public,” Hinkson said. “There is a compelling need to continue to work and understand the realities of mental health and illness, in order to make improvements in our current system.”

The Mental health Bell, from mental Health America, will also be on display at this year’s event. The 300-pound bell is a powerful reminder that the invisible chains of discrimination continue to bind people with mental illness. In the mental health community, the bell serves as symbol of hope for improving mental health and eliminating stigma associated with mental illness and developmental disabilities.

The eighth annual rally is sponsored by Michigan’s 46 Community Mental Health Services Programs, The Michigan Association for Suicide Prevention, NAMI, and Michigan Protection and Advocacy Services to name a few. Together, they want to promote a higher awareness of mental health issues among the public, media and legislators.

Mental health supporters will provide statements on mental health disorders and developmental disabilities in an effort to bring attention to the wide a range of the Michigan population who are affected. The event is slated to run until 3 p.m., after which attendees are encouraged to visit the offices of state legislators to promote important mental health and developmental disability issues such as insurance parity and the necessity of state budget support for mental health programs and local community mental health facilities.

If you would like more information about the Walk-A-Mile Rally please contact Bonnie Kaunisto at (906) 632-2805.

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