Walking With a Purpose
Ten years ago, Billie Wallis’ son was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia after the family was put through the grueling process of visiting numerous doctors to find out what the child’s illness was.
As any parent would react, Wallis struggled through the experience and even blamed himself.
“It was just heart wrenching to go through that. We started counseling with him when he was 7 years old,” he said. “(There were) a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of wondering ‘What did I do wrong?’”
During the rough time, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) was there for him through support groups and information, and now, the USAO student is out there supporting them.
Wallis, a senior psychology major and officer of the USAO Psychology Club, is spearheading the club’s participation in the NAMI Awareness Walk, which is scheduled for May 22.
Members of the club will help volunteer at the walk and have set a fund raising goal of $1,000, all of which will go to NAMI. Unfortunately, the club is far below their goal.
NAMI uses donations right here in Oklahoma for support, education, research and advocacy.
“They don’t want to see funds cut. They don’t want to see people put in prison when they should be put in treatment facilities,” he said. “Because everybody is affected by mental illness one way other another, either through themselves or through their family.”
Mental illness is an all-encompassing term, which includes depression, drug or alcohol abuse, bipolar disorder, autism and schizophrenia, among others mental illnesses.
Wallis said awareness can be crucial to NAMI’s cause.
“To me, advocacy is a real important part to psychology. You need to be out there and aware and making noise, to so speak,” he said. “I’m very passionate about it. I don’t think enough goes out to NAMI of Oklahoma.”
Anyone can sign up to be part of the Psychology Club’s “team” for the walk and/or donate to NAMI through the club. Funds go directly to the cause and are never touched by the club’s officers or members.
Wallis said people can walk, donate money or even just show up on May 22 to support the walkers. The walk begins at 9 a.m. — with registration at 8 a.m. — at Stars and Stripes Park in Oklahoma City. The walk is five kilometers, or 3.1 miles.
Visit www.nami.org/namiwalks10/okc/usaopsychologyclub to sign up, donate or to get additional information.