National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Racing to raise awareness

By Joni Agronin, NAMI Communications Intern

Everyone who is touched by metal illness has a different method of healing. For Terri Grauel and her son, Shawn, living a physically healthy lifestyle has led to better mental health quality.

Terri’s father, George, battled mental illness for most of his life. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in his early 30s but often refused to take medication because he preferred to be in his manic states. Eventually, George spiraled out of control spending time on the streets and in jail.

In 1998, George was approached by an organization called Green Door in Washington, D.C. The community based mental health center offers services and resources to individuals with mental illness to live in a supportive environment so that they can reestablish independence and healthy lifestyles. Once he became a member of the Green Door organization, George was able to live happily in the community for 12 years without hospitalization until his death in 2009.

After seeing the incredible, positive impact the Green Door community made on her father, Terri has made it her mission to raise awareness and funding for organizations that help those in need. Without the necessary funding, many programs similar to Green Door are at risk of being shut down.

In June, Terri and her son, Shawn participated in the Aquaphor New York City Triathlon. Training helps Terri to maintain her physical and mental health and she uses her races to honor her father and make people aware of the importance of mental health issues. Terri and Shawn created a racing team called “Be Aware” with all of their collected donations benefiting NAMI, Fountain House, Green Door, International Center for Clubhouse Development and Services for the Underserved.

“I race for very powerful reasons,” Terri said. “I know in my heart that the best way to help people living with mental illness is to shower everyone with love and compassion, share our family’s experience, dispel stigma, and raise awareness and money to support the organizations that help us.”