Downtown GR walk raises awareness about mental health

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A crowd of people hit the streets in downtown Grand Rapids on Saturday to raise awareness about mental health and reduce the stigma.

The Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan hosted its 20th annual Stomp Out Stigma Walk.

“We are going to keep doing it for 20 more because we have to continue to eradicate the stigma,” Christy Buck, executive director of the Mental Health Foundation, said.

The walk has been a safe place for survivors of suicide, someone who has lost a loved one to suicide.

“Just being here and speaking with other parents and other friends is a healing process,” Joseph Payton said.

Brad Gill, a board member of the foundation, came to the event with his family. It’s been a long tradition for them since his father died by suicide seven years ago. Gill’s father was 48.

“It’s been a really good way for us to keep his memory alive in a positive way,” Gill said.

Along the route were messages of support for the walkers. There was also a “memory hill” where pictures of people who died by suicide were displayed.

“A lot of people who aren’t familiar with mental health, in general, think that it’s only people with certain income or background or with certain family history but it can happen at any time to anybody. My dad was the perfect case,” Gill said. “It’s just a big wake-up call that things like that can happen to anybody.”

If you would like to learn more information about mental health resources and suicide prevention, visit