Walking with purpose: Hundreds join 5K walk to raise money for mental health resources

Hundreds of people took part in a 5K walk in Jacksonville on Saturday to raise money for mental health resources.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hundreds of people took part in a 5K walk in Jacksonville on Saturday to raise money for mental health resources.

The Jacksonville National Alliance on Mental Illness —also known as NAMI — group is raising funds to help community members who may be touched by mental illness.

It was also a way to educate and inform others about those living with mental illnesses and co-occurring substance abuse.

News4JAX spoke with Leigha Tipley who is on NAMI Jacksonville’s Board of Directors.

Tipley is thriving as a wife, and mother of two — with a third child on the way. What people may not see is Tipley has bipolar depression — diagnosed in 2015.

She told News4JAX she spent many years ignoring her warning signs throughout high school and college.

“I thought I was too strong to be depressed and I learned the hard way,” Tipley said.

Leigha tried to take her own life in 2014 at 25 years old.

“I truly felt and believed that the world was a better place without me,” she said. “That is something that is not true but unfortunately, this disease makes you truly feel that way.”

But she sought the help she realized she needs and is now advocating for people to do the same.

Leigha Tipley

Tipley is not alone. Hundreds of people laced up their sneakers to raise money for Jacksonville’s NAMI chapter.

Executive Director Suzanne Mailloux said that money will go to the 10 different programs that the organization offers to those living with mental health conditions and their families. Resources like support groups and education courses are all free.

According to a perception survey called “The Harris Poll,” the number of people who thought they had a mental health condition jumped to 67% this year. That’s a 10 percent increase from 2018.

There’s also a push for people to be more aware of any possible warning signs as the same poll shows just one in three people feel they can tell when someone is considering suicide.

There’s not only a plea for people to seek help. But one for more mental health professionals, including licensed behavioral clinicians and trained counselors.

The Rural Health Information Hub said there is a shortage of professionals nationwide. Florida needs more than 382 more practitioners to end the state’s shortage.

Through it all, Tipley believes there is hope and most importantly, there is help.

“It is OK to talk about it,” Tipley said. “You are not alone.”

The goal for NAMI Jacksonville was to raise $85,000 for those programs during Saturday’s walk.

Click here to learn more about NAMI.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness Jacksonville chapter is hosting a 5K walk, both in person and virtually.

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