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Utah walk, classes aim to help those with mental illness


By kristen moulton

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Sep 05 2014 01:01AM
Updated Sep 5, 2014 07:16AM

Utah’s largest event to raise mental health awareness, the 5K NAMI Walks Utah, is Saturday, and the classes it supports are getting underway as well.

The Utah chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness hopes to raise $100,000 through the walk on Saturday. By mid-week, those walking had secured more than $70,000 in donations, said Mary Burchett, outreach specialist for NAMI in Utah.

"We honor the lives of those we’ve lost to the illness and celebrate those on the path of recovery and wellness," Burchett said.

The walk drew 1,800 last year, including many teams. The goal is to attract 2,000 walkers this year, Burchett said.

Those interested can go to the website www.namiwalks.org/utah to register or just show up. The walk begins at Salt Lake City’s Liberty Park Rice Pavilion at 10 a.m., but check-in begins at 8:30 a.m.

The walk is free, and participants do not have to seek donations, she said.

The organization uses the money to pay for classes and support groups that are offered free and year-round in the Salt Lake Valley.

"Especially for families, there are a lot of challenges," said Robin Holcomb, NAMI’s programs director.

NAMI offers a class called Bridges for those diagnosed with mental illness and, at the same time and location, Family to Family classes for family members. They run weekly for 13 weeks, and begin on Sept. 10, Sept. 17 and Sept. 23.

A Basics class for Spanish-speaking parents of children with mental illness meets weekly at the same time as a class called Progression, for teenagers diagnosed with mental illness. The latter is in English.

The classes run for six weeks.

Another series of Basics and Progression classes, both in English, begins Oct. 30, and runs through Dec. 4.

Two ongoing support groups for adults living with mental illness, called Connections, meet weekly in the Salt Lake Valley.

Those interested can learn more at the NAMI website, www.namiut.org, and should call 801-823-9900 to register for classes.

Holcomb said volunteers who have mental illness teach the classes, which can be powerful for those attending.

"The people attending know that the person teaching really knows what they’re going through," she said. She added, "It helps the teachers in their own recovery."

The volunteers are trained and certified by NAMI before teaching, she said.

The Progression class for teenagers, she said, was developed in Utah and has received national recognition.

"Mental illness doesn’t necessarily pop up when you’re an adult. It can start at a much younger age," Holcomb said. "This gives them a chance to meet others and learn about their challenges and get support."

kmoulton@sltrib.com

Twitter: @KristenMoulton

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