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Hoosiers raise millions of dollars for mental health through "Kicking the Stigma" campaign

The campaign was headed by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay and his family and will benefit four organizations focusing on mental health in Indiana.

INDIANAPOLIS — Even before the pandemic, 19% of adults experienced a mental illness. 

That was probably even a low estimate, because of the stigma that prevents so many from accessing the help they need.  

With the pandemic, there's been a 93% increase in anxiety screens alone. The increased demand the pandemic has placed on mental health services is one of the reasons the Irsay family and the Colts came together for a fundraising campaign called "Kicking The Stigma." 

In a week, Hoosiers helped raise over $4 million for four organization in Indiana who are focused on mental health: Mental Health America Indiana (MAHI), the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Indianapolis (NAMI), Bring Change to Mind and Project Healthy Minds.  

NAMI and MAHI both told 13News they don't know how much of the money they will each receive.  

"But whatever we receive is going to be phenomenal," said Beatrice Beverly, president of the NAMI Greater Indy's board of directors. "We have four programs we've been implementing throughout COVID that are targeting the Black and brown communities.

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"One of them is called the 'mental health hour.' Where it's residents coming together and having support from a mental health perspective, but it's in their neighborhood and led by their neighborhood," said Beverly. "Another one is our youth and caregiver mental health support groups. Where parents come together, and youth come together over a four-week window. We have the NAMI basics class, which is also tailored for people of color and then friends and family."

She said that, as a parent, she has firsthand knowledge how critical these services are "there weren't specific programs that were in place for people of color that were culturally comprehensive and aware of the barriers and the stigmas and where they came from."

She said she's seen the programs work and is "excited about those dollars so we can implement even more programs." 

Like NAMI, Mental Health America Indiana will also be receiving funds. Both organizations received a substantial amount of money about a month ago.  

"We received about $310,000 from the Irsay family and the Colts," about a month ago, said Kelby Gaw, communications and marketing director for Mental Health America Indiana. 

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With the additional funding MHAI will be receiving from the Kicking the Stigma fundraising campaign, "Mental Health of America is going to be focusing our efforts in providing training scholarships to mental health professionals for continuing to receive their education through our MHAI Stanley W. DeKemper Training Institute. And we're also going to be focusing our efforts on providing treatments plans for around 40 clients to give them free treatment for 38 weeks," said Gaw. She said that mental health services are expensive for those with or without insurance. And that MHAI wants to make sure the most vulnerable Hoosiers still have access to the healthcare they need.  

Across America, 86% of the psychologists in the workforce are white, an increasing number are also female. It remains unclear how many identify as cisgendered. MHIA said it hopes to help diversify the workforce to reflect the population it serves. 

"Something we're really going to focus on is making sure that all of our professionals that we are working towards developing match our community, because representation does matter especially in behavior health," said Gaw. 

Together, both NAMI and MHAI and the other two organizations receiving funding are working to end the stigma with funding from Hoosiers who supported the Kicking the Stigma campaign.

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