News /PEERS participates in first annual Walk for Health
"Recovery is possible!" Leann Simpson confidently proclaimed from the Lake Merritt stage while sharing her personal story of mental health recovery.
"I made it. We made it!"
Simpson, a community liaison for PEERS, was one of multiple speakers who proudly shared their journeys of recovery at the Walk for Health event at Lake Merritt on Friday, May 18. Sponsored by Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services and the Alameda County 10 x 10 Campaign, the day featured various wellness events such as Zumba, walking, yoga, dance, and talks to raise mental health awareness.
The event was held not only to promote conversation around mental health, but also to support the goals of the national 10 x 10 Campaign led by SAMHSA, or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
According to SAMHSA, an estimated 3 million people in the United States with severe mental illness have a 25-year shorter lifespan than the general population. The goal of the 10x10 Campaign is to extend the lifespan of those with severe mental illness by 10 years within 10 years.
"People are dying early," said Colette Winlock, the event's coordinator and executive director of the Health and Human Resource Education Center in Berkeley, Calif.
"When I heard the statistics that people with [severe] mental health challenges die 25 years sooner, I started thinking about my family. I have a father that died when he was barely 51 and he suffered from bipolar. This is my work but it's also important to me on a personal level. "
According to SAMHSA's website, consumers who die early tend to perish from preventable causes such as "diabetes or cardiovascular, respiratory, or infectious diseases." People also suffer because of "an overall lack of access to quality, culturally appropriate health care services."
Many of the people in attendance identified as mental health consumers but Winlock said the campaign is about encouraging everyone to join the movement. And it will take effort on everyone's part to help those at risk live longer.
"Depression is depression whether you call yourself a consumer or not. Bipolar is bipolar, whether you go for therapy or not, " Winlock said. "We need to just erase that line of 'this is me, this is you' when we're all experiencing these kinds of issues."
The Walk for Health event also addressed eradicating mental health stigma. Marcus Marshall, a member of the Transitional Age Youth Initiative and Pool of Consumer Champions, said it was important for youth to be a part of the day.
"Lots of youth don't want to identify with mental health issues but the truth is we all go through depression,” Marshall said. “We all go through stressful situations and we come together as peers and support one another. We promote wellness."
Participants walked away with many health tips, information from vendors, and goodies. They were given free t-shirts and bags filled with fresh fruits and vegetables. Volunteer Judy Tomilson, who is outspoken about consumer empowerment left with more vigor to spread the word about mental health, wellness, and putting an end to stigma.
"I have survived mental illness,” Tomilson said. “I have survived family members with mental illness. We are put on a medicine shelf and labeled. Labels are for clothes, not people. "
Learn more about the 10x10 campaign at http://www.alamedacounty10x10.org/.