Thousands of people pledged to fight the stigma of mental illness Saturday as part of “I Will Listen” Day. NY1’s Bree Driscoll filed this report.
Cynthia Scott says she was just 25 when she had her first experience with mental illness.
“I was going through depression and I was starting to hear voices. And from there I would see things that were not really there,” Scott says.
She ended up in the hospital.
“I felt scared, out of control, and I thought maybe I was going to die. I was shaky. I was depressed. And also I didn’t want to live,” Scott says.
Scott is not alone. The National Alliance on Mental Health says one in four people will experience mental illness. Saturday, the New York chapter of the NAMI held the inaugural “I Will Listen” day, where people pledge to listen without judgment.
The event featured a wellness fair, concert, and 5,000 people walking the Brooklyn Bridge to raise awareness and fight stigmas surrounding mental illness.
“The problem with mental health issues is they typically stay within the four walls of a home. People don’t talk about them so they really struggle and families really struggle,” says NAMI vice president Nathan Romano.
“Mental illness is so prevalent. So many of us are impacted. There is such stigma which prevents people from getting services when they need them,” says NAMI NYC executive director Wendy Brennan.
One of the people joining the cause was the city’s first lady, Chirlane McCray, who served as the grand marshal of this year’s event.
She has been extremely outspoken about her mother, father and daughter’s struggles with mental illness.
“The subject matter is so personal to me and it is so important that people who are struggling with mental challenges—mental health challenges—be visible. And tell us stories that show people that you can live a full protective happy life if you seek treatment,” she says.
She also says the city is committing more than $78 million in new annual funding for mental health services, like the ones Cynthia Scott says helped her.
“I am doing fantastic. I am really doing great today,” Scott says.
NAMI NYC says they hope to raise more than half a million dollars from this event. That money will also be going to provide educational and support services for mental illness.