My parents were mental health professionals. My father was a psychiatrist, my mom, a psychiatric registered nurse. They worked every day of their careers to care for and help people struggling with mental illness. Perhaps their calling was predestined, as they themselves struggled with mental health issues during their lives

Coincidentally, I was diagnosed with clinical depression in my 20's and over the years, I have come to realize it is something I will most likely deal with for the rest of my life. It is a family thing, apparently, as my siblings and I have all dealt with depression. Admitting this, even a decade ago, would have been very challenging. Mental health is just as, if not more important than our physical health.

Thankfully organizations like NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) are working to ease the difficulty of coming forward with mental health issues, in an effort to help people live better lives, without the stigma associated with it in the past.

The statistics on mental illness in South Dakota are stunning. In January of last year (2018), it was revealed that South Dakota had set a new record for death by suicide. The exact number was not released, but it was somewhere north of 173 people.

Suicide, is often the result of untreated or under-treated mental illness. Approximately 17 percent of South Dakota's adult population lives with mental illness.

Nationally, 1 in 5 adults, 1 in 7 children (ages 2 to 8), and 1 in 5 youths (ages 13 to 18) (right around 60 million people) are affected by mental illness. The impact of mental illness, (locally and nationally) on everything from the criminal justice system to the economy of businesses, is startling and public mental health services are inadequate to meet the need. That is where organizations like NAMI South Dakota come in.

NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which provides education, support and advocacy to people impacted by mental illness. A big part of their grassroots work is to simply raise awareness about mental illness and thanks to their efforts attitudes about mental illness are changing and lives have been saved.

The 16th Annual NAMI Walks event is this Saturday, May 18, in Sertoma Park at 49th Street and Oxbow Avenue. Registration starts at 8:00 AM, 5K run at 8:30 AM, 5K walk starts at 9:30 AM. You can raise money and participate in the walk, you can donate, you can volunteer, and you can cheer on the walkers.

There will be all kinds of fun activities for the whole family! For more information check out their Facebook page, their website or call 605-553-3204 and speak to walk manager, John Williams.

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