Sunday, May 19, 2024

Delaware still faces mental health challenges. Here’s how you can help — now

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The COVID pandemic opened a lot of eyes in Delaware — and beyond — to the importance of mental health. Suddenly a healthy mind and overall well-being began receiving invigorated, widespread appreciation for how much those things matter to our quality of life.

This awakening came at a time when Generation Z, and the Alphas behind them, had already begun demonstrating an openness for talking about mental health. They share so much about their lives online, that disclosing a need for help, or their concerns about friends and family they see struggling, is not a taboo topic. More and more we see and hear them talk openly about their needs.

This is tremendous progress!

But there is still much work to be done.

One in five U.S. adults lives with a mental health condition, and in Delaware, 42,000 adults live with a serious mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The number of adolescents reporting mental health problems is on the rise, with 22% — or more than one in five — of U.S. high school students having seriously considered a suicide attempt in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In Delaware, 9,000 youth between ages 12 and 17 have depression, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Delaware’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, known as NAMI Delaware, is a statewide grassroots nonprofit that champions mental health for all. For more than 40 years, NAMI Delaware has provided a wide range of awareness, advocacy, support, education and housing to support those affected by mental illness in Delaware.

The staff and volunteers at NAMI Delaware work tirelessly to eradicate stigma and advance the organization’s mission to support, educate and advocate until there is a cure for severe and persistent mental illness. We strive to shape public policy for people with mental illness and their families, and constantly seek to raise awareness and encourage understanding.

Each spring we gather for our NAMIWalks event, an enthusiastic gathering of people committed to supporting mental health in Delaware who spend a Saturday morning walking to raise money for this vital nonprofit. This year’s walk will start from the Figure Eight Barn at Bellevue State Park in Wilmington on Saturday, May 4. The event gets underway at 9:30 a.m. with a motivational speaker, music and food trucks and support from our many community vendors.

Has a mental health condition affected your friends? Your family? You? There is no shame in asking for help and there is strength and comfort being in the company of Delaware neighbors who are committed to mental health for all.

NAMI Delaware invites everyone to learn more about the walk at namidelaware.org/2024-nami-walk and join us for this empowering event. This is the nonprofit’s biggest program of the year, and it raises vital financial resources that make our advocacy work possible.

There is a movement afoot in Delaware and around the country in support of mental health. We encourage everyone to take the first step, and join us!

Mary Allen Anderson lives in Middletown and is a member of the board of directors of NAMI Delaware. This will be her 10th year participating in NAMIWalks Delaware.

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