COVID Chicago: NAMIWalks seeks to end mental health stigma, especially during COVID-19 pandemic

National Alliance on Mental Illness Chicago will host in-person, virtual 5K Sept. 18
CHICAGO (WLS) -- As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the mental health and wellbeing of Chicagoans from all walks of life, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Chicago will host a hybrid in-person and virtual 5K on Sept. 18 for its annual NAMIWalks event.

This celebration comes at a crucial time, as recognizing the importance of normalizing mental health and wellness has become more top of mind than ever before, the organization said.

"We are thrilled to bring our community together to take a collective step toward healing, raise critical funds and fight the stigma around mental health," said Alexa James, chief executive officer of NAMI Chicago. "We look forward to joining with our fellow Chicagoans to celebrate the diverse mental health journeys that bring us together, and ensure that conversations around mental health remain at the forefront. We are excited to celebrate our strength and vulnerability together with this year's NAMIWalks."

NAMI Chicago has been at the forefront of the compounding mental health crises throughout the pandemic, serving Chicagoans experiencing mental health challenges and providing education, training and advocacy around important mental health topics, the organization said. Over the past year and a half, more people than ever have reached out to NAMI Chicago for support and guidance. When the first stay-at-home order was put in place in March 2020, calls to NAMI Chicago's helpline increased by 200%, and the average length of calls went from 12 to 20 minutes.

NAMIWalks Chicago begins with a "5 Challenge Weeks for 5K" campaign on Monday, engaging participants in virtual wellness challenges in the weeks building up to the 5K walk and lakefront event. The culmination on Sept. 18 will cater to both in-person and virtual walkers with comprehensive safety protocols in place.

In-person walkers will gather at Jackson Park at noon before beginning a 5K walk along the lakefront.

Those interested can learn more or register at namiwalks.org/chicago.
Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.