Stomping out the stigma: Hundreds hit the pavement for the NAMI Walk to raise money for mental illness

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Mental health is a growing issue and Milwaukeeans hit the pavement for the NAMI Walk on Saturday to raise awareness and money for the cause.

With each step it's a foot in the right direction of helping treat mental disorders.

"I think a lot of people don't realize what the prevalence is," said Susan Schoenmarklin, walk manager.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an average of one of every four Americans will experience a mental health disorder each year.

"It's a real challenge. Often they have trouble with good quality housing, funding support groups," said Schoenmarklin.

So Susan Schoenmarklin helped organize Saturday's NAMI Walk to raise awareness and money.

"Our funds all stay local. We run to support groups for people with mental issues and for the families we have free educational classes," said Schoenmarklin.

While FOX6's Tom Pipines emceed the event, it was other star power like former Green Bay Packer and Hall of Fame Inductee, Chester Marcol, who shared his presence and story of how common the problem is.

"My responsibility in life is because of what I went through and my suicide attempt, and my battle with alcohol and other drugs -- and seeing how people struggle and suffer and medicate their mental health issues, they want to be secretive about it and I want to bring that to the forefront as much as I possibly can. There is hope and lots of it," said Marcol.

As the crowd of 1,400 snaked through the trail at Veterans Park, motivated to make a change, some walkers held pictures of loved ones remembered while others like Nate Hamilton, brother of Dontre Hamilton, carried his memory.

After Dontre Hamilton, who suffered from mental illness was shot and killed by a Milwaukee police officer, his family has dedicated themselves to making a change in the system.

"We have to educate ourselves and we want the police department to be educated when it comes to mental health. We want to have a conversation with the county executive and making sure resources should be there for people that suffer from mental health complex is working at a higher level," said Nate Hamilton.

The goal is to raise $165,000, the organization is just about there with $140,000 -- but it needs your help.

If you missed the walk, you can still donate. CLICK HERE to visit NAMI's website.