Families Together Raise Mental Health Awareness

NAMI Vermont MINDWalk Families Together Team, from left, Erika and Joe Couture, Carlotta Parsons, Kelly DeForge, South Burlington Representative Maida Townsend, David Ackerman, Monica Ackerman and Connie Stabler

Despite the chilly temperature, more than 130 peers, family members, friends and organizations gathered at City Hall Park in Burlington earlier this fall for the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Vermont’s (NAMI VT) 12th annual MINDWalk. Nearly $40,000 was raised through donations and sponsorships during this event. These funds provide crucial statewide NAMI programs and services for families and individuals affected by mental health conditions.

A host of South Burlington residents led the effort to raise awareness and funds for NAMI VT. Ellen Vaut and Connie Stabler led this year’s Families Together team, which was also the highest team fundraiser with a total of $2,955.

Other residents involved in the annual event include Ann Moore, on the “Team Music” team, NAMI VT board member Mary Kirkpatrick, who led the “Law & Disorder” team, and NAMI VT Executive Director Laurie Emerson, who led the “Stigma Busters” team, which included board member and resident Ward Nial.

“I am honored to work with the many families and individuals who volunteer their time to give back to the community and administer all of our free programs so that others can find help and hope,” Emerson said. “The walk is an opportunity for us to reduce stigma and eliminate barriers. As a community we need to continue the conversation about mental health and increase public understanding.”

In Vermont, one in five adults will experience a mental health condition; one in 25 will be diagnosed with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Half of all lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75 percent by age 24, but early intervention programs can help. The money raised from this fundraising and outreach event goes exclusively to Vermont programs to help support, advocate, and educate about living with mental illness for individuals, loved ones, providers and the public. For more information, visit namivt.org.

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