I was diagnosed with clinical depression in my 20's and over the years, I have come to realize it is something I will most likely deal with for the rest of my life. My parents both had their issues with it, as do my siblings. Just another genetic thing you don't have control over, but deal with in the best way you can. I always like to quote Fozzie Bear - "We all have our bears to cross!"

Making that admission to anyone but family and close friends would have been very difficult for me, even a decade ago. Thankfully organizations like NAMI are working to ease the difficulty of coming forward with mental health issues, in an effort to help people live better lives, without the stigma associated with it in the past.

The statistics on mental illness in South Dakota are sobering at best and unquestioningly heartbreaking at worst. In January of 2018, it was revealed that South Dakota had set a new record for death by suicide. The exact number has not been released, but it is somewhere north of 173 people who died by suicide, which is often the result of untreated or under-treated mental illness. Approximately 17 percent of South Dakota's adult population lives with mental illness.

Nationally, 1 in 5 adults, 1 in 7 children (ages 2 to 8), and 1 in 5 youths (ages 13 to 18) (right around 60 million people) are affected by mental illness. The impact of mental illness, (locally and nationally) on everything from the criminal justice system to the economy of businesses, is startling and public mental health services are inadequate to meet the need. That is where organizations like NAMI South Dakota come in.

NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which provides education, support and advocacy to people impacted by mental illness. A big part of their grassroots work is to simply raise awareness about mental illness and thanks to their efforts attitudes about mental illness are changing and lives have been saved.

The NAMI Walks South Dakota 5K Walk is this Saturday, May 19, in Sertoma Park at 49th Street and Oxbow Avenue. Registration starts at 8:00 AM and the walk begins at 9:30 AM. You can raise money and participate in the walk, you can donate, you can volunteer and you can cheer on the walkers. There will be all kinds of fun activities for the whole family! For more information check out their Facebook page, their website or call 605-553-3204 and speak to walk manager, John Williams.

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