“Stomping on the stigma” surrounding mental illness

WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Nearly 42.5-million people across the country are living with a mental illness.

On Sunday, dozens of them gathered at Stanley Park in Westfield to “stomp out the stigma” surrounding mental illness. It was the 15th Annual Walkathon of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of western Massachusetts. 22News anchor Rich Tettemer was this year’s Honorary Marshal,

For people like Westfield resident Debora O’Brien, it can be a tough road to travel. “Nobody would study with me in the occupational therapy program because they found out I had a mental illness, and I went in a psych hospital because my meds weren’t right. The only people I talk about it to, are people I know that I can trust,” she said.

Chicopee resident Laurel Landon told 22News she too has fought battles surrounding her illness. “Just trying to be real, no one would listen to me. They’d listen to my parents or other things, you were supposed to fit into the community the way they wanted you to,” she said.

Julia Levesque is a high school student knows firsthand just how critical support from family and friends can be. She was diagnosed with “bipolar 2,” two years ago. After watching her aunt pass away to bipolar disorder, she’s has made it her mission to raise awareness for mental health. “It means a lot to us, when people support us. My aunt recently passed away with an overdose from being bipolar. She overdosed and abused alcohol and drugs,” she said.

Every step taken was a step forward for the millions who’ve struggled with mental illnesses.

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