Blue Jean Mile for mental health is Saturday in Greensboro

The free event, designed to raise awareness and spur fundraising for NAMI Guilford, will take place in Hester Park in Greensboro.

Blue Jean Mile for mental health is Saturday in Greensboro
Participants in the 2022 Blue Jean Mile in Greensboro (photo courtesy of Amanda Nantz).

Greensboro's Amanda Nantz considers her interest in mental health both professional and personal.

"I struggle with long-term chronic mental illness," Nantz says. "My life is certainly not what I thought it was going to look like at almost 40 years old.

"And professionally, I still am a licensed therapist. I maintain my licensure, but I don't work in the field anymore. Mental health and wellness and meeting people where they are and showing dignity and compassion and care and partnering with them on their journey has always been something that was incredibly meaningful to me."

That's why Nantz, a personal trainer, has helped bring the Blue Jean Mile, a mental health awareness event started by professional runner Johnny Gregorek, to Greensboro. The event made its debut in May 2022 and will be held again Saturday.

Here's what you need to know:

About the Blue Jean Mile

What: A 1-mile run, walk, stroll or roll. Participants should wear jeans or green. The event is designed to raise awareness about NAMI Guilford and to bring an end to the stigma regarding mental health. May has been observed as Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States since 1949.

Cost: Free. Donations are encouraged to NAMI Guilford (link below).

Why a Blue Jean Mile: Professional runner Johnny Gregorek, during the pandemic in 2020, set a blue jean mile record as a tribute to his brother, Patrick, who lost his battle with a mental illness in 2019. Click to read more.

About NAMI Guilford: From the organization's web site: "NAMI Guilford is a family-based, grassroots, support and advocacy organization, which strives to act as the community hub for information relating to local resources and services for the friends and families of individuals living alongside a mental health condition, as well as, the individuals themselves."

When: 10 a.m. Saturday.

Where: Hester Park, 3615 Deutzia St., Greensboro (for GPS, use Tonkins Street).

Learn more and donate:

Why Nantz is involved

"I knew nothing about the Blue Jean Mile until the first week of May last year," she says. "I'm on Fleet Feet's listserv, and it came out from Fleet Feet about the Blue Jean Mile. I read it and thought, 'Wow, this is really meaningful to me.'

"When Johnny did it, he also raised funds for NAMI national. I thought, 'Well, it's already almost two weeks into May, I can't put anything big together, but I would like to at least get something started with having a Blue Jean Mile here in Greensboro to benefit our local NAMI Guilford, which I was already involved with.

"I put one together last year. We had about 20 or 25 people come out, and we raised awareness and handed out flyers to people in the park and did educational stuff and did the walk and raised some money for NAMI Guilford. ...

"I'm a part of NAMI Guilford because they do education and awareness raising for not only people with mental health issues but also people living alongside them, friends and family. They've got free support groups for friends and family, free support groups for people who are struggling. We go into the community and do educational programming.

"It's a way that I can still be involved in mental health advocacy in a way that's doable for me."

About her running game

"I was an athlete my whole life," Nantz says. "I was a three-season athlete in high school (South Iredell), and volleyball was the sport I was best at, so I was recruited most for it. I was a college volleyball player (Catawba).

"When I finished being a collegiate athlete, I had always enjoyed running. I used to actually run with the cross country team for fun before volleyball when I was in high school. Then I had so much time on my hands after I wasn't a college athlete anymore that I got into running.

"I love trails most of all. I love trail running with my dogs (Gracie and Mia, pit bulls). As I've aged and as I've just slowed down in general, I don't have a competitive spirit about running. I love just trotting in the woods with my dogs.”

The fight against the stigma

"Even the flyers that were made and handing out the flyers to people, even that sparks conversation," she says. "People say, 'Well, what's this about?' The second you talk about it, people will say, 'Oh yeah, I struggle. My brother has such-and-such. The more we can do to just get conversation out there and shine the light on it, that's excellent. One of the things NAMI says is 'stigma is our worst enemy.' So this is our fight against it."