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Nonprofit challenges Vienna to take a walk for Mental Health Action Day

A Vienna-based nonprofit dedicated to supporting young wrestlers is encouraging residents to take a self-guided walking tour of the town this week for Mental Health Action Day.

The Eric Monday Foundation announced yesterday (Tuesday) that it has partnered with the Falls Church marketing agency Focused Image and the construction technology company RPG Squarefoot Solutions to create a walking map of the Town of Vienna for a “Take It to the Streets Walking Challenge.”

Starting Friday (May 21), community members will be able to pick up the poster-sized maps from Vienna Inn (120 Maple Ave. E), Greenheart Juice Shop (208 Dominion Rd NE), and Social Burger (350 Maple Ave. W).

“Walking can do wonders for your mental health. It improves your self-perception, sleep and helps to reduce stress and anxiety,” the foundation said in a press release. “We challenge you to get out with your family and friends and on each walk highlight the streets on the map until you have walked every street in this town!”

The challenge is part of the Eric Monday Foundation’s plans to participate in the first-ever Mental Health Action Day, which will be tomorrow (Thursday).

Boasting more than 500 nonprofits, companies, government agencies, and other organizations as partners, Mental Health Action Day is a nationwide campaign organized by MTV Entertainment Group as part of its new “Mental Health Is Health” initiative, which launched in April to promote the destigmatization of mental health conditions.

Spurred by reports of more people experiencing psychological challenges like anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mental Health Action Day encourages people to take action to address mental health issues, whether by seeking counseling or other services for themselves or by advocating for systemic changes to make it easier for people get access to mental health resources.

In a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released in August, 40.9% of respondents said they had symptoms of at least one mental or behavioral health condition, including anxiety or depressive disorders, increased substance use, and trauma or stress related to the pandemic.

10.7% of respondents reported seriously considering suicide within the 30 days prior to completing the survey, with rates especially high among young adults, Hispanic and Black individuals, caregivers, and essential workers.

“Though more people than ever are comfortable discussing mental health, finding effective resources, and knowing how to get help remains a challenge,” the Eric Monday Foundation said.

In addition to organizing the “Take It to the Streets” Walking Challenge, the foundation is participating in Mental Health Action Day by urging people to sign its Take Down the Stigma pledge, a commitment to talk openly about mental health, get educated, and show compassion by listening to people’s stories and paying attention to the language people use.

The foundation also marked Mental Health Awareness Month by hosting a parent education seminar and raising a Take Down the Stigma banner over Maple Avenue that includes the PRS CrisisLink hotline (800-273-TALK) and textline numbers (“CONNECT” to 855-11).

“We are honored to have our Town and its businesses participating in Mental Health Action Day by highlighting and bringing awareness to #takedownthestigma,” Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert said. “The Town of Vienna is a welcoming place for all people and the Take to the Streets Challenge encourages us to come together, get some exercise with friends and family and support the mission of the Eric Monday Foundation.”

Vienna Inn owner Marty Volk says he was glad his business could do its part to support the foundation, which is named after a former James Madison High School wrestler who died in 2009 at 21.

“We are all about supporting the community and happy to be able to play a role in the important efforts of the Eric Monday Foundation and their mental health mission,” Volk said.

Photo courtesy Eric Monday Foundation

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