“Walk-a-Mile in My Shoes” Rally in Lansing

Michigan residents meet on Capitol lawn to promote mental health awareness and reduce stigma

Lansing, Mich. – Michigan’s 46 Community Mental Health agencies hosted the eighth annual “Walk-a-Mile in My Shoes” rally Wednesday at the state Capitol. Michigan residents from all 83 counties attended the event to lobby state legislators about mental health issues and to help combat the stigmas and prejudices associated with mental illness, developmental disabilities and substance use disorders. Eighty-three people who use CMH services–one from each county in the state, delivered brief statements from the capitol steps about the status of the public mental health system in their counties.

The Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards (MACMHB), the educational and political arm of the CMHs in the state, organized the rally. MACMHB had more than 2,000 people at the event, including people who use CMH services, people who work in the CMH system and mental health advocates of all stripes. The inaugural event attracted 800 people in 2005 and has been growing annually.

“The rally helps showcase the importance of addressing issues facing people with mental illness, developmental disabilities and substance use disorders,” said Mike Vizena, director of MACMHB. “We are excited to once again host the Rally and connect with advocates from across the state to bring our message to the public and legislators. We need to continue to spread awareness about mental health and illness, in order to make improvements in our current system.”

The Mental Health Bell, from Mental Health America, was also on display at this year’s event. The 300-pound Bell is a powerful reminder that the invisible chains of discrimination continue to bind people with mental illness. In the mental health community, the bell serves as a symbol of hope for improving mental health and eliminating stigma associated with mental illness and developmental disabilities.

In Michigan, one in five adults will experience a mental health disorder at some point in their life, yet many do not get the treatment they need. One of our goals is to make sure that everyone who needs treatment for mental health and/or substance use disorders in Michigan is able to get it.

The eighth annual rally was sponsored by Michigan’s 46 Community Mental Health Services Programs, a group that works to promote a higher awareness of mental health issues among the public, media and legislators.