JOHNSTON, Iowa — Hundreds of Iowans gathered at Terra Park Saturday for the annual NAMIWalks fundraiser, which raises money for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
More than 800 people participated in this year's walk, either in-person or virtually, to support NAMI's educational outreach, support groups and legal advocacy. Many of the participants had a personal connection to the cause.
Connor Peck remembers his brother, Jesse, as "just very fun, and loving, and very generous." Jesse died from suicide in May 2020. Connor, his mother, and other friends and family members joined NAMIWalks as JP's Crew in honor of Jesse, becoming this year's top fundraisers.
"I think he did well at kind of hiding some of the things he was going through," Peck said. "Many people that weren't real close to him didn't really know anything was going on."
Mental health issues are more common than you might expect—especially in Iowa.
"Just last fall, a national survey found that 42% of Iowans were experiencing anxiety or depression," said Peggy Huppert, Executive Director of NAMI Iowa. "That's much, much higher than normal."
Jesse's mother, Amy Ellgren, said just having a conversation can help loved ones who may be struggling.
"Be a good listener, let that person carry the conversation," Ellgren said. "Just be open to that and feel like it's a safe place for someone."
This year's NAMIWalk raised more than $130,000, which was the event's original goal. The new goal is $140,000. Even though the official NAMIWalk has ended, donations are still being accepted here.
If you're having suicidal thoughts, the number for the national suicide prevention hotline is (800) 273-TALK.
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