The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Connecticut Walk of 2018 took place on May 19 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. Participants walked around the perimeter of the stadium five times, which is the equivalent of a 5k.
Five members from the A Minute for Mental Health student organization at KO attended this event: seniors Gabrielle Ruban, Neil Hemnani, Chiara Rego, junior Janvi Sikand, and Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Cultural Competency Joan Edwards.
Last year, Gabby started A Minute for Mental Health as a series at Tuesday assemblies. “I wanted to start something that encouraged conversations and discussions across the community regarding how we treet one another, how we react to life events, and the importance of mental health and self-care,” Gabby said, “Since the movement was built upon communal unity and inciting change through collaboration, I wanted to extend the cause beyond myself and make A Minute for Mental Health more of a student organization.”
This year, one of the goals of A Minute for Mental Health was to pursue community outreach and make a difference that extends beyond KO’s campus. During meetings at lunch, members of the club spent time researching local organizations that advocate for mental health awareness.
A Minute for Mental Health chose NAMI because of the extensive work that this NGO has done to provide resources and support research regarding mental illness and addiction. NAMI has publications on bipolar disorder, depression, borderline personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and more.
During the walk, it was raining, but that didn’t stop people from coming. “It was amazing to see how many participants came to the event, with hundreds of folks walking in the name of specific individuals or the cause as a whole,” said Gabby.
Chiara agreed and said she enjoyed the crowd. “My favorite part was seeing how many people came out to support despite the bad weather. That and the cute dogs,” she said. Some dogs even walked with t-shirts on.
At the walk, there were booths for different organizations that advocate for accessible healthcare allocation, adolescent and youth mental health education programs, and support groups that have partnered with NAMI, such as Wheeler, Silver Hill Hospital, Hartford Healthcare Behavioral Health Network, and more.
There was a best team t-shirt contest where teams would design and wear their own t-shirts for a chance to win $50. There was also face painting and crafts for kids that attended the event.
“I liked the NAMI walk a lot. The weather was bad, but that didn’t matter because the walk itself was still lots of fun; the atmosphere there was really positive,” Neil said.