WAKEFIELD – May is designated as Mental Health Awareness Month and Gogebic Community Mental Health’s Anti-Stigma Committee continues their efforts to end the stigma associated with mental illnesses and intellectual/developmental disabilities. CMH is planning their 8th annual “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” rally, following the lead of the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan in Lansing. CMHAM, the advocacy organization for community mental health service programs in the state of Michigan, is holding their 15th annual rally on May 9th at the Capitol Building in Lansing. Close to 2,500 people attend their rally last year, including advocates from Michigan’s 83 counties, state legislators, mental health and I/DD workers, with many providing statements related to supporting persons with disabilities and providing opportunities for recovery, self-determination, and community integration. Because of the long distance travel to Lansing, CMH continues to plan their own rally in Gogebic County, which is scheduled for Wednesday, May 15th at the Wakefield V.F.W. Registration begins at 10 a.m. and the program starts at 10:30 a.m. One in four adults and one in five children experience a mental health illness at some point in their life, yet many of them cannot or chose not to access the treatment they need. Statistics also show that 10 percent of children and adolescents suffer from serious emotional and mental disorders that cause significant functional impairment in their day to day lives at home, school, and with peers. The Walk A Mile event is held for behavioral health and I/DD advocates to educate the public and legislators about mental health and raise awareness of the harmful effects stigma associated with mental illness and I/DD has, and for everyone to accept individuals for who they are. Mental illness and I/DD do not discriminate and anyone can be affected at any time. Negative feelings and stigma are always associated with individuals who live with these issues and the community needs to work together to stop the negative feelings and the stigma as they are what keeps people from asking and getting the help and support they need. Some things the community as a whole can do to stop the stigma is to use respectful language, emphasize a person’s abilities and not their disabilities or limitations, don’t label or judge people by their illness or disability, encourage full community inclusion, speak up when others are using unkind words or bullying, treating everyone with dignity and respect, and being kind to everyone! The featured speaker for this year’s event is Jackson Sturkol. Jackson is the son of Scott and Bobbi Sturkol and lives in Tomah, Wis., with family ties to Wakefield as his parents grew up in Wakefield and his grandparents still live there. Jackson is a high-functioning adult with autism; he will speak about what it is like growing up and learning to overcome and be successful with the challenges of autism, how autism has changed his life in a positive way, and how he continues to win the daily battle with autism. Other featured speakers include Dr. Tim Kangas, CEO of NorthCare Network of Marquette and Bob Sheehan, Executive Director of CMHAM. An open mic segment is also part of the program, specific for individuals who would like to share their story. To conclude the program, a short symbolic walk will begin from the VFW to the Visitors and Information Center and back, and participants will enjoy a light lunch afterward. CMH encourages individuals receiving services, parents, guardians, families, representatives from community organizations, mental health and I/DD advocates, legislators, education staff and students, and the general public to join the rally and walk in support of stomping out stigma. CMH’s Anti-Stigma Committee, who plans this awareness event, thanks the students and teachers of area schools for drawing Walk A Mile placemats that are used in local restaurants promoting the event. In addition to helping CMH advertise the event, by drawing on the placemats the students learn about mental illness and disabilities, to be kind to everyone, and to treat everyone with respect. In addition to being in the restaurants, placemats can be seen on CMH’s Face Book page at facebook.com/GogebicCMH. For more information or to pre-register, contact Missy Lane at 229-6105 or mlane@gccmh.org or Angela Pope at 229-6104 or apope@gccmh.org.

Community Mental Health plans annual ‘Walk a Mile in My Shoes’ rally for mental health awareness