It may have been chilly, but 1,500 students, community, and organization members started at GVSU’s Pew campus for a brisk 5k Saturday morning walk to “Stomp Out Stigma”. The walk is a benefit for the Live Laugh Love: Educating Youth about Mental Health program and the be nice. campaign which raises awareness about mental illness to reduce stigma and bullying.
What started with fifty people on a benefit walk 12 years ago has grown immensely over the years, especially after the addition of the be nice. program in 2011.
The walk started out at the Pew campus courtyard with refreshments and dancing. Keynote speaker Terry DeBoer, known for her work as one of Wood-TV 8’s meteorologists and co-host of talk show EightWest, spoke about the dangers of mental health stigma and applauded those who were willing to help prevent it. DeBoer has also been a Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan board member since 2009.
According to the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, fewer than ten percent of U.S. schools offer a comprehensive mental health curriculum.
The goal of Live Laugh Love is to increase tolerance of mental health issues to directly decrease bullying and minimize the devastating effects of bullying such as low self-esteem, depression and suicide.
“Stigma is the #1 Barrier for treating mental health,” said Larissa Payton, assistant executive director of the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan.
“Increasing awareness has helped grow this walk.”