WILKES-BARRE — A group of walkers took to the streets on Sunday, but, unlike many other walks, this one wasn’t to raise money.
Instead, they were just looking to raise awareness for mental health.
The local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, held its 17th Annual Walk for Recovery and Mental Health Fair.
Walkers gathered in downtown Wilkes-Barre at the corner of Market and River streets, before processing across the Market Street Bridge and heading into Kirby Park for a fair.
According to Joseph Fedak, vice president of the local chapter, the event usually attracts around 350 walkers.
Fedak made it clear that the event was not a fundraiser, but rather just a way to get the group’s message out there.
“It’s to raise awareness for the general public and making sure people know they aren’t alone,” he said.
Fedak said the group offers numerous support meetings each month throughout the area, both for those who are suffering from a mental illness and for family members who are seeking to be supportive of their loved ones.
“These classes are evidence-based and run by trained facilitators,” he said, adding that they’re also free and open to the public.
After marching into Kirby Park, walkers were treated to a lunch of hot dogs, pretzels and other treats, while representatives from groups like the Haven Behavior Hospital of Eastern Pennsylvania and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs were staffing the fair, offering those seeking help insight on how to get it.
Shortly into the fair, Scott Doyle, a Tunkhannock man who works as a peer specialist at Community Counseling Services, spoke to the fairgoers about his own experiences with mental health.
Doyle said he was diagnosed at the age of 15 with schizoaffective disorder. After some trying times, he said he was able to begin working through his recovery. He said part of this is owed to creating a mission statement for himself, something he encouraged others to do.
“‘I will take charge of my recovery and not give up,’” Doyle said he repeats to himself. After speaking, he told a reporter that he loves helping people in situations similar to his, adding that it’s “so important” that people seek out the help they need.
“Recovery is possible,” he affirmed.
Fedak said NAMI is hosting other events, including this week a screening of the film “The Valley,” a film that he said examines the role of anxiety and depression in a person’s life.
The screening, which will be held on Wednesday at the F.M. Kirby Center, will begin at 7 p.m., with doors opening at 6 p.m. Fedak said a panel will be held after the film to examine the way mental health affected it.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan