Fundraising for NAMI-NYC is a great step toward breaking down stigma around mental illness and mental health. But the real benefit of events like the Blue Jean Mile is beginning conversations about mental health.
“This whole process has been amazing in that it has really opened up the conversation. There’s a lot less stigma and taboo around mental healthcare practices, and I can see that so much in my relationships with family and friends. Ten years ago, it would never have been something that came up. Now you can casually talk about going to a therapist, and it’s just really cool to not have it be something to be embarrassed about,” says Gregorek.
As the Blue Jean Mile continues to grow in popularity, so too does Gregorek and his family’s ability to not only grieve the loss of a brother and son, but to positively impact individuals who similarly suffer from mental illness.
“There's so many different ways you can go through difficult times and grieve, and it's just nice to have a way to honor my brother’s spirit and to connect with a community and help other people who are in need of mental health resources,” says Gregorek. “It’s all about making the most of the time we have. I think that’s in the spirit of what my brother would have wanted and it's a healthy way to operate overall.”