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Friday May 7th

Walk for Hope raises awareness for mental illness and funds for UNC Psychiatry

Walk for Hope walkers making their way up Glenwood Avenue towards Umstead Park. Photo courtesy of Surapon Sujjavanich.
Buy Photos Walk for Hope walkers making their way up Glenwood Avenue towards Umstead Park. Photo courtesy of Surapon Sujjavanich.

Thousands gathered in Raleigh on Sunday to participate in the Thad and Alice Eure Walk for Hope, which supports individuals with mental illness.

One in five adults in America live with a mental illness, but nearly 60 percent of these adults didn’t receive mental health services in the past year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The Walk for Hope aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and bring attention to these Americans, who are often overlooked. 

The Foundation of Hope, an organization that funds research for the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses, sponsored the Walk. All of the money raised during the Walk for Hope went to the UNC Department of Psychiatry's mental health research efforts.

Shelley Belk, executive director of the Foundation of Hope, said the organization was started by her parents after her brother was diagnosed with bipolar schizoaffective disorder at 17 years old, and they realized how little was known about mental illness.

“There wasn’t a lot of funding for scientists who wanted to discover new breakthroughs for mental illness,” she said. “My mom and dad wanted to try to make a difference so they started the Foundation of Hope.”

Belk said that after the passing of her father, a Foundation employee suggested having a walk in his honor. Thus, the Walk for Hope was founded.  

“We didn’t know it was going to be the first walk of many,” she said. 

Belk said that the money donated to the Department of Psychiatry provides funds to get researchers started on projects that the Foundation hopes will be further developed and funded by other organizations.

“Our niche has been to provide the seed money in hopes that other funding will be generated because of that initial funding we gave to UNC-Chapel Hill,” she said. “We try to select seed projects that we feel are going to translate into further funding.”

Belk believes that the Walk has done a lot to help alleviate the stigma surrounding mental illness. 

“I think every year we do it, we touch more and more people," she said. "We try to grow the event every year so we touch more families. It’s a fun day.” 

UNC’s Mental Health Ambassadors hope to destigmatize mental illness while also educating the Carolina community about mental health. 

Faith Newsome, a mental health ambassador and writer for The Daily Tar Heel opinion desk, said her organization works closely with Counseling and Psychological Services to educate students on the resources available to them on campus in terms of mental health. 

“We make resources and help (make them) more available to people who need those kinds of services,” she said. “We also have events on campus and serve as ambassadors to combat the stigma against mental health.”

Charlotte Moore, communications specialist at the Foundation of Hope, stressed the importance of destigmatizing mental illness.

“So much of the time, people who suffer from mental illness see no one,” she said. “And it’s not because their illness isn’t real or because their illness isn’t real to them. It’s because they fear how it will be perceived by others.”

@DTHStatNat

state@dailytarheel.com

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