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Thousands gather in Minneapolis to end stigma surrounding mental illness

Updated: September 28, 2019 10:17 PM

One in five Minnesotans will deal with mental illness every year. On Saturday, more than 4,000 people gathered at Minnehaha Park to end the stigma surrounding it.

It was the 13th annual NAMI Walk for Mental Health, hosted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

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“We’re absolutely amazed at the support and love that we have today,” said Lynne Sonnek, who was surrounded by family and friends.

Lynne and Rick Sonnek lost their 24-year-old daughter Andra in March, after a battle with mental illness. She suffered from anxiety and depression.

“There’s a lot of people who miss her day to day,” said Rick Sonnek.

The couple told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that Andra was vibrant, loved kids and was passionate about ocean conservation.

“The kindest heart you can imagine,” said Rick Sonnek. “Everyone would attest to how amazing she was when she was with them.”

They held pictures of Andra as they walked, sharing her memory and a message.

“If you need any type of help, talk about it,” said Lynne Sonnek. “Get somebody involved, reach out.”

“It’s okay, it’s not a stigma and just have more conversations. Everyone is willing to help,” Rick Sonnek added.

The crowd was joined by Gov. Tim Walz.

“We can make sure that no one ever again suffers in silence, or suffers in stigma and discrimination, or suffers when we know there are things we can do,” Walz said.

The governor pledged he would try to expand insurance coverage for mental health services.

“We recognize if you break your leg you're going to go get help, if you have mental illness you do the same thing,” Walz said.

RELATED: Mental health advocacy group asks Walz to block ending of Competency Restoration Program

He said they need to help children as well.

“We need to get more of these counselors in where students are at earlier,” he said.

“Half of all cases develop by the age of 14,” said Sue Abderholden, the executive director of NAMI Minnesota. “We need to be sure we're talking about children's mental health, including in our schools and making sure kids have access to treatment.”

She and others with the organization visited Washington, D.C., about a week and a half ago to meet with the Congressional delegation.

“What we saw was a really deep concern about mental illness,” she said.

Abderholden hopes lawmakers will expand a pilot program that created one-stop shops for care in eight states, including Minnesota. The Excellence in Mental Health Act would continue the federal support for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics.

“People don't have to wait three months to get into see someone, it can just take a couple of days and we know early identification and treatment yields the best outcomes,” said Abderholden.

She hopes this walk will encourage people to reach out for help.

“You don’t walk alone,” said Abderholden.

Here are resources:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Call 800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a trained crisis counnselor 24/7.

Crisis Text Line – Text NAMI to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive free, 24/7 crisis support via text message.

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