A group of individuals took to the street May 26 to call attention to mental health and persuade Virginia legislators to increase funding for mental health. The event on May 26 was sponsored by Virginia Organizing, a grassroots social justice organization whose top priorities are mental health, school funding and affordable housing.
“Today, our rally was held to bring awareness to mental health and wanting Virginia state legislators to put more funding for mental health in the state budget,” said Bridget Spencer, one of the Wythe chapter leaders. “Many people in our community and the state of Virginia are lacking mental health services they need. More funding from our legislators means more funding for those in need of counseling and other mental health services. It was not a protest, no argument. We were there to bring attention to what is needed for citizens in our community. Adequate mental health care saves lives.”
The rally started at the Mount Rogers Youth Services Building but moved closer to the middle of Wytheville’s Main Street.
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Passers-by encouraged the group.
“Some gave encouraging words like, ‘You all don’t realize what a good thing you are doing.’ We got many horn blows and thumbs up. One woman even parked her car and gave us a donation,” Spender said.
One participant spoke to the group about how counseling changed her life.
The 18-year-old said she left an abusive situation and wound up homeless. During that time, she wanted to speak with a counselor but was unable to because of her age (17 at the time) and lack of parental approval.
Eventually, a local family took her in and helped her find a counselor through the app Talk Space. She spoke with a counselor twice a week for about five months.
“It’s made me stronger,” she said. “It showed me to not have fear of the people I lived with. It showed me how to take my story and inspire other people and to keep walking on my own two feet. That is my dream for any kid or adult going through a hard situation.”
The young woman said she has recovered from past traumatic stress disorder associated with her abuse.
“I’ve accomplished many things,” she said. “I have no anxiety, and I’m feeling more confident in myself and who I am. And that is pretty cool.”
Virginia Organizing is a non-partisan statewide grassroots organization dedicated to challenging injustice by empowering people in local communities to address issues that affect the quality of their lives. Organizers listen to citizens in communities across Virginia and try to work those issues.
Mental health is one of the group’s top priorities across the state. For more information, visit online at www.Virginia-organizing.org
To reach reporter Millie Rothrock, call 276-228-6611, ext. 573, or email email@example.com