WAKEFIELD — Gogebic County Community Mental Health is planning a “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” rally on Wednesday, May 29, with registration at 10:30 a.m. and the rally beginning at 11 a.m. at the new pavilion at Sunday Lake in Wakefield.
If inclement weather arises, the event will take place at the Wakefield VFW.
It is the second year of the rally in Gogebic County, which commemorates May as Mental Health Awareness Month, according to a news release.
“The walk-a-mile event is to help people see what it’s like to have a mental illness or a developmental disability and to have others realize that the teasing and stigma need to stop,” said Missy Lane, chairperson of Gogebic County CMH’s anti-stigma committee.
“Our committee is so passionate about raising awareness and decreasing the stigma associated with mental illness and developmental disabilities. Our message to the community is to accept individuals for who they are, and to focus on their abilities, not disabilities,” she said.
The Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards conducted its ninth annual rally on May 8 at the Capitol Building in Lansing, with more than 2,500 people participating from Michigan’s 83 counties.
MACMHB’s first rally was in 2005.
Gogebic County CMH plans its own rally because of the long distance to Lansing.
Last year’s rally drew 100 people, Lane said. “Seven people spoke at the open mic, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the pavillion,” said Lane. “It was emotional and overwhelming. People don’t ask for what they have and should be treated respectfully.”
In Michigan, one in four adults and 10 percent of children experience some form of emotional or mental disorder, Lane said.
Gogebic County CMH served 483 people in the past year, Lane said.
Committee member Mary Priante went into the Wakefield-Marenisco School and A.D. Johnston High School and Washington Elementary School in Bessemer in January and February to teach students about mental illness and give them the opportunity to create place-mats and gift bags for the rally, Lane said. The place-mats will be used in local restaurants next week, and the originals will be on display in the Gogebic County CMH’s lobby.
This year’s rally theme is “Be Kind to Everyone.” This can mean banning the r-word and replacing it with another r-word —respect, Lane said.
Phil Hefner will present the keynote address at the rally. He is the training coordinator from Northpointe CMH in Kingsford. Gogebic County CMH representatives will begin the walk, with consumers, parents and guardians encouraged to join in.
Light refreshments will be available after the walk.