NAMI Utah Fights Mental Health Stigma With Annual NAMIWalks Your Way Fundraiser
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Making mental health a priority, especially during such a challenging year, has never been more important. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the National Alliance on Mental Illness Utah is hosting their 18th annual NAMIWalk Your Way fundraiser Saturday, May 22 to break the stigma around mental illness and to improve the lives of those who live with mental illness by helping them know they are not alone.
This walk will be held virtually this year with the option for participants to walk on their own or join online events like group cardio and yoga classes.
62-year-old Peter Cornish of Murray is grateful he connected with NAMI years ago. He’s dealt with chronic depression for more than half his life. When he was in his late 20s, he started becoming more anxious and had trouble sleeping and concentrating. He was working an incredibly stressful job in computer software at the time.
He finally broke down during a doctor’s appointment on an unrelated issue when he was referred to a psychologist for the first time.
“When you’re depressed everything is grey, everything is tough,” he explained. “My self-worth just disappears.”
NAMI offers peer-to-peer support groups for those who are struggling with their mental health in addition to the caretakers and family members of those affected. “All the people that suffer and all the people supporting people that suffer – we’re all on a walk, you know, a lifetime walk,” he said.
Cornish said his connection to others who also struggle with mental illness has been essential to his overall well-being. Through peer-to-peer support groups, which he now facilitates, he found a sense of identity knowing he’s not alone.
“The illness is very difficult in that I feel like I’m crazy and that no one understands me, and with NAMI, we all have different experiences but we share some things in common and that’s, I think, the biggest part about it is being around others that you can relate to,” Cornish said.
Cornish has also relied on medication, talk and electroconvulsive therapy, journaling, exercise, meditation, and the companionship of his wife, Ann, kids, and sweet dog, Nala.
He recognizes his illness probably won’t be cured, but he’s learned how to cope and find the good in life.
“I am probably going to be on meds my whole life and I will have more depressive episodes, but I can manage it,” he said.
Cornish urged others to reach out for the help they need. For him, it’s been life-changing.
“When you come out of depression, life is just that much more beautiful. You can see colors, you can smell smells, you can feel the love,” he described.
Cornish invites anyone who is seeking help to participate in the walk Saturday and connect with others who also understand. The funds raised will go towards free mentoring, support groups, peer-to-peer courses, and suicide prevention efforts.
Anyone can register for free here.