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NAMI New Orleans to Hold a Virtual Walk Highlighting A National Day of Hope

NEW ORLEANS (press release) – Fran Goldstein is no stranger to mental illness. For years, she suffered from bouts of severe depression. Though she managed to graduate from college and handle several jobs, she notes, “I wasn’t fully functioning as the depression would take over. It wasn’t until I was introduced to NAMI New Orleans did I not only find some peace, but I also found my calling. Today, I’m a NAMI-trained mentor and support group leader, and it’s this organization that helped with my recovery. I am so grateful for what they did and the opportunities they have given me, so now I am returning the favor, and I hope to encourage others to do the same.”

What Goldstein is doing is temporarily wearing another hat for NAMI New Orleans. She’s become a fundraiser and virtual team leader for the organization’s upcoming fundraising event. NAMI New Orleans typically holds a large community walk in Audubon Park as its primary fundraiser. Last year, the walk raised more than $100,000, but this year, the in-person walk has been canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions, so NAMI is having a virtual walk. October 10 has been declared A National Day of Hope, and NAMI chapters across the country will hold virtual events and  NAMI hopes to raise $120,000.

“Like so many people, we are now embracing the virtual world, so instead of outright canceling our fundraiser, we are getting creative and embracing the new normal,” explains NAMI New Orleans executive director, Lisa Romback. Just what will a virtual “walk” look like? Romback pauses a second and then, with a chuckle, notes, “It can look like whatever you want it to look like; let your imagination soar. We are encouraging individuals to fundraise or create teams and, through an event, or project, raise funds for a cause that is needed now more than ever because of the mental crisis we are now facing due to COVID.”

Goldstein sees first-hand what the pandemic has done as she’s directly involved in helping those reaching out to NAMI seeking support, and according to Goldstein, that number is growing. “Not only are those with a long history of diagnosed mental illness reaching out, but people who have never been diagnosed with a mental illness are also seeking help as they are experiencing an array of emotions due to the isolation and anxiety the pandemic has caused. This crisis has truly put a spotlight on mental illness and how it can impact anyone, and our call volume is a testament to that.”

And for now, taking calls or hosting virtual support group meetings are all NAMI New Orleans can offer due to lockdown restrictions. Typically, NAMI provides many free services such as support group meetings, family support services, community education and awareness programs, health fairs and offers a drop-in center for those seeking peer-to-peer support. However, all of that is shut down for now, according to Gladys Campbell, NAMI’s Mental Health Navigation Team and Volunteer Coordinator. Daily, she’s also answering calls on NAMI’s helpline and hears of the mental anguish taking place in our community. Her concerns are not only for the present but for the long-term. “I’m afraid a lot of mental health professionals are just going to close down or move due to the financial strains this has taken on everyone. A lack of mental health care is going to present a huge void in our community, leaving those who need help nowhere to turn. I think NAMI is going to be needed now more than ever.”

Romback is also aware of the long-term impact and says that’s why this year’s fundraiser is crucial as they foresee the continued growth in their free services. As for ideas on what people can do to help, Romback says individuals can work on a project by themselves to raise funds or create a virtual team and event. The first step is to register either as an induvial or a team; there is no fee to register.  Some ideas being shared are:

  • Walking 3,500 steps, either through your neighborhood or on a treadmill, and ask for donations
  • Holding a virtual team bake-off and selling the goodies
  • Hosting a virtual paint and sip party with team members paying a fee

Looking back on her personal journey with mental illness, Goldstein has wasted little time in creating a virtual team and has already garnered nearly three thousand dollars in donations, all of which she knows will be put to good use. “I am who I am today because of NAMI. I was afraid to venture into the real world, but then I started working for NAMI, and it’s changed my life and now I am able to help others and hopefully change their lives for the better.”

For more information on how individuals or teams can help with this year’s virtual walk, click here or email walks@namineworleans.org or call 504-896-2345.




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