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Columbia community raises awareness for mental health resources

The 5K at Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park Saturday raised awareness and funds for free mental health programs.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Columbia community gathered Saturday to instill hope and raise awareness for mental health at the NAMI Walks 5K.

The walk was hosted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness Mid-Carolina, which is raising funds for its mental health programs.

“I’m here to bring awareness to mental illness," participant Olivia Jones told News19. Jones and about 250 others walked the Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park to show people that are struggling that they are not alone.

Jones said, “mental illness is something many people struggle with and it’s not anything you should be embarrassed about.”

In fact, according to NAMI, one in five Americans experience a mental illness, and the pandemic may have increased these odds.

Ginavra Gibson, a mental health professional and participant said, “with mental illness, there’s so much stigma around it that people think 'I just need to do better,' but there are chemical imbalances and things going on, and people beat themselves up, and they don’t get the help they need.”

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Gibson encourages anyone struggling to reach out for help.

“I’ve told members of my own family, 'you need support and help,' sometimes you need medication, not always, but if that’s what you need don’t be ashamed to get that help,” Gibson insisted.

NAMI Mid-Carolina's executive director Zenethia Brown told News19 that the organization provides free support groups and classes that help people put one foot in front of the other. 

They’ve even helped Brown personally, with depression and anxiety. “I’ve learned some coping skills, some communication skills,” shared Brown. She added that NAMI will continue to do that for others, thanks to donations from the community.

“We’re actually pretty close to our goal, our goal is $75,000,” Brown said with a smile. To help NAMI reach its goal and fund free mental health programs, you can donate on their website linked here.

Resources:

National Suicide Prevention Line: 800-273-TALK

South Carolina crisis response dispatcher: 833-364-2274

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