NAMI Ventura County event goes virtual but purpose more real than ever

In years past the Ventura County NAMIWalks drew upwards of 1,500 Ventura County residents to the Promenade.

Mental illness doesn’t take a time out so neither does NAMI Ventura County. That’s why the show must go on.

In this case, the show is NAMIWalks Ventura County. The 15th annual NAMIWalks is getting a big makeover in format but not in spirit.

NAMI Ventura County is the local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The nonprofit is a tiny powerhouse offering 15 unique programs to the public completely free of charge. With just a staff of four and a passionate volunteer base, NAMI Ventura County reached 6,830 people throughout Ventura County in 2019.

The annual NAMIWalks event accounts for more than half of the revenue the nonprofit uses to offer family and peer education classes and support groups, stigma reduction programs in schools, colleges, and law enforcement trainings, and community education programs like those specifically designed for healthcare providers.

Even before 2020 turned everyone’s lives upside down, the need for mental health education, support and advocacy was growing. Now, experts expect to see spikes in newly diagnosed cases of mental illnesses as well as the exacerbation of existing mental health challenges.

Mental health professional Janine Ivy, Psy.D., LMFT, is a member of NAMI Ventura County’s board of directors. While the ways individuals experience and respond to events, like the Covid-19 pandemic, vary greatly, Ivy said it wouldn’t be surprising to see an increase in symptoms of depression and anxiety across all age groups and a greater need for mental health and substance use treatment.

In years past, on the first Saturday of May, the Ventura County NAMIWalks drew upwards of 1,500 Ventura County residents to the Ventura Beach Promenade. But the annual NAMIWalks event wasn’t just another 5k. It was an opportunity for anyone whose life was touched by mental illness to stand together proudly defying and breaking down the stigma that still surrounds these disorders.

“Being a family member myself, it touches my heartstrings every year,” Griego said. “Families are out there showing support and love. It’s what families are meant to do, support their loved one through any experience in life.”

The NAMIWalks Virtual Takeover holds tight to the NAMIWalks Mission: raise awareness around mental health and raise the funds the nonprofit needs to make free education and support a reality throughout Ventura County communities. Instead of a single day, the Virtual Takeover encourages supporters to get

creative in how they participate.

Throughout the month, NAMI Ventura County is asking participants to submit videos and selfies of all the creative ways they are celebrating NAMIWalks and Mental Health Awareness Month.

The 2020 NAMIWalks Ventura County will culminate on Saturday, May 30 as local participants join with 38 affiliates across the county in celebrating A National Day of Hope.

To join the NAMI Ventura County NAMIWalks Virtual Takeover as a team, walker or sponsor, visit or call NAMI Ventura County at 805-641-2426.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email