Going the distance for mental-health awareness

County walk will offer opportunities to connect with resources

Special to The Sun
The Mental Health Awareness Walk will feature speaker Michele Kidd, a Gloucester City resident who founded the nonprofit Nate’s Story in memory of her son Nathaniel, who struggled with his mental health and took his own life in 2019.

On Saturday, May 18, Camden County and its prosecutor’s office will host the fifth annual Mental Health Awareness Walk from 10 a.m. to noon at Wiggins Park.

Collaborators for the event are the Municipal Alliance program and the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.

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“The goal ultimately is to raise awareness, decrease stigma and increase engagement with treatment for both mental-health persons who are in or need treatment and the public,” said John Pellicane, director of the county’s Office of Mental Health and Addiction.

“We know that mental health is a priority for the Camden County Commissioners,” he added. “People engage with treatment when they feel less stigmatized, so helping the community to be more aware is important for this.”

The walk will start at 10:45 a.m. Following the walk, there will also be opportunities to connect with 24 resource providers, including the Camden County Domestic Violence Center, the Camden County Youth Partnership and Stepping Stones to Resiliency.

Pellicane noted that some signs of a healthy mind include being able to experience, express and regulate a range of emotions; recover from hardships; and deal with uncertainty and change.

The event’s keynote speaker is Michele Kidd, a Gloucester City resident who founded the nonprofit Nate’s Story in memory of her son Nathaniel, who struggled with his mental health and ended his life in 2019.

From a parent’s perspective, Kidd recalled it was hard to know how to help her son. She tried asking him about what he was going through, but he did not want to talk. He had gone to therapy, but didn’t click with many of the therapists.

Michele acknowledged that Nathaniel was convinced no one could understand what he was going through.

“It’s one thing to identify (a mental-health issue), but what do you do when you identify it?” Kidd asked. “It’s not the stigma as far as I’m concerned, it’s teaching these kids how to live with these feelings, like what do you do when you reach out for help, that kind of thing.”

Kidd explained that being proactive is key, since it’s easier to identify solutions if you know in advance what poor mental health looks like than if you don’t. Today, she works through Nate’s Story to spread awareness for different resources available to people experiencing mental-health issues.

“According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), it is estimated that approximately one in five U.S. adults lives with a mental illness,” Pellicane said. “Help and treatment are available. We need to increase understanding, compassion, education, so that more and more residents who may be dealing with poor mental health or even serious mental illness are able and willing to access treatment and support.”

As a teacher, Kidd shared that some of what her school does for Wellness Week is teach kids how make to make themselves feel better, regulate emotions for difficult feelings and know when and who you can ask for help.

“I have a son, who, I have his high-school diploma, but I don’t have him,” Kidd said. “What good is all this education that he received throughout all the years when he didn’t know how to deal with his own mental state?”

“I feel like we’re not doing the right thing for them by not educating them more about that.”

To learn more about Nate’s Story or mental health resources, visit https://natestory.com/options-%26-resources.

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