Free your Mind for Mental Health

Zumbathon for Mental Health

On Friday 22 August a group of men and women who love to dance got together for to dance in honor of a great cause and to raise money to benefit NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), a nonprofit organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans living with mental illness.

Stephanie Rafferty, a talented and well-known Zumba instructor in Maryland, gathered over 50 lovers of Zumba together in Columbia to dance in the ‘Free Your Mind’ two-hour Zumbathon.

The cause is very close to Stephanie’s heart and she says: ‘I wanted to raise awareness of mental health issues by using the power of dance. There are resources out there for those who are living with mental illness AND for their families and friends.  Suicide isn’t an act of cowardice, but a choice made out of desperation to stop the pain because they see no end, and this Zumbathon was in honor of all those suffering from mental health.

Free Your Mind Zumba instructors. (Courtesy photo)
Free Your Mind Zumba instructors.

The Zumbathon gang was joined by Kelly Bullard Zes and teams of local instructors in this quest to better the lives of millions living with mental illness. Stephanie adds: ‘Mental illness has affected all of us in different ways so it is wonderful to come together to help those living with it.’

Carrie, one of the Zumbathon dancers, said: ‘I have lived with mental health issues for many years and have always been too afraid to speak about them to my friends and family. When I dance or exercise I feel relief from the stresses and strains of my mental illness. Dancing really does that have power, so I am grateful for events like this that bring us all together and recognize the existence of the disease.’

September 4 is the NAMI day of action (#act4mentalhealth). NAMI is encouraging everyone to inspire others with messages of hope and to realize that they are not alone.

NAMI says: ‘Mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.

Free Your Mind Zumba (Courtesy Photo)
Free Your Mind Zumba

“Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder. The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible.

Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion or income. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. Mental illnesses are treatable. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan.”

You can learn more about treatment and services that assist individuals in recovery through NAMI here.