More than 1,700 Blue Shield of California employees passionately showed their support for youth mental health – and their own mental health – by participating in last week’s National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) California’s Virtual Walk. The May 21 NAMIWalk was one of dozens of planned events for Blue Shield’s annual May Month of Service, which encourages employees to give back to the community by volunteering their time and talents.


Across California, employees took to local walking paths, trails and streets to show support for NAMI California’s core mission: “working with mutual respect to provide help, hope and health for those affected by serious mental illness.” NAMI California is an original partner of Blue Shield’s youth mental health initiative, BlueSky. Employees logged thousands of miles of walking and running while raising more than $5,000 for NAMI California.


“Even though we participated in our own neighborhoods, coming together around the common goal of raising awareness and funding for youth mental health needs was exciting and inspiring – especially after a year that has felt so isolating at times,” said Antoinette Mayer, senior director of Corporate Citizenship for Blue Shield. “Our employees continue to step up to support the communities where we live and work, and for that I say, ‘thank you.’”


"Our goal is to educate, advocate and engage,” said Angela Brand, vice president of Strategic Development for NAMI California. “We do this in a variety of ways, including the facilitation of public awareness events with partners like Blue Shield, promoting mental health awareness month."


Mental health experts say there is an urgent need for services and resources, especially as people continue to deal with the many impacts of COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention one in three U.S. adults reported experiencing depression or anxiety since the pandemic began.


“After all we have been through over the past 14 months, I think it is now more important than ever not only to check on the mental health of family and friends, but also to practice self-care,” said Mark Seelig, corporate media relations manager for Blue Shield. “What better way to support that effort than to carve out a little time in the day for the NAMIWalk – to take a walk, breathe some fresh air, and fill our bodies with endorphins!” 


In addition to raising awareness for mental health and wellness through the NAMIWalk, Blue Shield also teamed up with more than 1,000 organizations nationwide for MTV’s inaugural Mental Health Day of Action. The initiative encouraged individuals and companies to commit to enacting change, building resources, and destigmatizing the conversation on mental health.


Blue Shield of California’s signature BlueSky initiative enhances access, awareness, and advocacy of youth mental health supports in collaboration with the California Department of Education and leading nonprofit organizations. BlueSky supports California youth mental health by providing access to clinicians in middle and high schools, training educators on the signs of mental health issues, and empowering students with in-person and online mental health support resources.