Sweat beading down his face and lake water spilling from his wetsuit, Adrian Hunter and close friend Brian Litke took on a serious physical challenge to raise money and awareness for a good cause. However, this was not the ALS "Ice Bucket Challenge" that has been so popular over the past summers. Instead, the duo competed and finished the 2016 Saint George 70.3 Ironman to raise awareness and money for mental health causes.
To date, they have raised nearly $17,000 and directed 100% of the funds to The Brain and Behavior Foundation (BBF). BBF awards grants to young, mid-career and senior scientists, who conduct innovative and 'out of the box' research to achieve breakthrough advancements and, ultimately, decode the complexity of mental illnesses.
Their efforts were personal, as Adrian lost a brother to an overdose in 2014. One of the reasons he chose to raise money and awareness for mental health by competing in an Ironman is that he had trouble finding a walk, run or fundraising drive in honor of mental health causes.
The difficulty to find a suitable mental health fundraising event motivated me to identify some of the other top Mental Health organizations supporting research and treatment of individuals with Mental Illness.
Here are some of my current Top Mental Health Organizations That Deserve More Support:
1) National Alliance on Mental Illness: A grass roots organization that holds events, provides education, advocates and provides resources.
2) Mental Health America: Community based prevention, interventions and treatments. They came up with the hash tag #B4Stage4, which is a play on the cancer stages, which promotes early treatment before it becomes terminal.
3) Brain and Behavior Research Foundation: Awards grants for research related to mental health.
4) The Trevor Project: Founded in 1998 by the creators of the Academy Award®-winning short film TREVOR. The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.
5 and 6) The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Treatment Advocacy Center.
By bringing Mental Illness out of the shadows and into the forefront of our thoughts and fundraising efforts, we will decrease the stigma associated with these diseases. Those who are impacted should have hope and not shame, treatment and not rejection. Those with depression or an anxiety disorder deserve the same support and hope that someone suffering from Breast Cancer is afforded.
Adrian and Brian raised awareness, funding and decreased stigma for all of those suffering from mental illness as they trained and competed in a grueling Iron Man. Adrian and Brian were moved by the loss of Adrian's brother. However, their motivation to raise money and awareness stemmed from a desire to improve the condition of all those suffering from mental illness around the world. With nearly one in four Americans suffering from Mental Illness, their story is likely one you can relate to, and may even have experienced, personally.
Read more about how Adrian and Brian tackled an Ironman course and mobilized their social network to raise nearly $17,000 for mental illness research here.