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'Walk a Mile in My Shoes' Rally set for May 28

 

Submitted photo ­­

MARIA BERQUIST, a junior at Wakefield-Marenisco High School, dons a shirt in front of a billboard for Gogebic Community Mental Health's "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" Rally on U.S. 2 near Bessemer. Berquist's design from last year's rally was chosen for the billboard and event T-shirts. The first 140 registrants will receive a shirt.

WAKEFIELD - Gogebic Community Mental Health continues its efforts to end stigma associated with mental illness and developmental disabilities during May, National Mental Health Awareness Month.

GCMH is planning its third annual "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" Rally for Wednesday, May 28, at 11 a.m. at Sunday Lake in Wakefield. Registration beings at 10:30 a.m. with the rally to begin at 11 a.m. at the new pavilion in Eddy Park at Sunday Lake in Wakefield. In case of inclement weather, the event will move to the Wakefield VFW.

The rally is inspired by the Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards annual rally. The MACMHB held its 10th annual rally on May 14 at the Capitol Building in Lansing. More than 2,500 people participated, including advocates from each of Michigan's counties, state legislators, mental health and developmental disability workers.

Gogebic CMH hosts the local event because of a long travel distance to Lansing.

One in four adults in Michigan will experience a mental health disorder at some time during life, but many cannot or choose not to access needed treatment, a news release said. Ten percent of children and adolescents suffer from serious emotional and mental disorders that cause functional impairment in their day-to-day lives, the release said.

"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, stigmatizing and bullying need to stop," said Missy Lane, chairperson of Gogebic 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 abilities, not disabilities."

Jeff Olson will be the main speaker at the May 28 rally. Olson, the Ishpeming Hematites' head football coach, and his wife Sally lost their son, Daniel, to suicide two years ago.

"The program also includes an 'open mic' segment where individuals are encouraged to share their story, noting, for example, 'I have depression - walk a mile in my shoes,'" Lane said.

Gogebic CMH representatives will begin the symbolic walk, starting from the pavilion and traveling around the short paved path, which is wheelchair accessible. Attendees are encouraged to join. Light refreshments will follow.

Representatives from community associations, mental health and developmental disability advocates, legislators, education staff and students and the public are encouraged to join the rally and walk in support of mental health and developmental disabilities awareness.

"CMH's Anti-Stigma Committee sincerely thanks the students, teachers and administration of the Wakefield-Marenisco School, A.D. Johnston High School and the Ironwood schools for creating 'Walk a Mile' placemats that are being used in local restaurants promoting the Rally," Lane said. "It's a win-win situation as the students are helping CMH advertise the event and CMH helps the students to learn that it's okay to have a mental illness and/or a developmental disability, to be kind to everyone, and to treat all people with respect."

For more information, call Lane at Gogebic CMH at 906-229-6105 or Angela Pope at 906-229-6170.