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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Bringing awareness to mental illness — one step at a time

  • On Nov. 9, 2013, 23-year-old Ian Cummins was awakened by the shrill cries of his parents. It was 3 a.m. and a police officer had just arrived at their home to inform them that Ian's younger brother, Ryan, had taken his own life in a church parking lot inside the family's car. This past week, Cummins came through this area as ...
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  • On Nov. 9, 2013, 23-year-old Ian Cummins was awakened by the shrill cries of his parents. It was 3 a.m. and a police officer had just arrived at their home to inform them that Ian's younger brother, Ryan, had taken his own life in a church parking lot inside the family's car.
    This past week, Cummins came through this area as part of his walk across America to honor his brother and to raise awareness of the importance of mental health.
    He began his journey March 1 at Virginia Beach, Virginia, and hopes to reach San Francisco, California, by October.
    "It is one thing to push your way across and make it coast to coast but I am trying to share my only brother's story. That is the biggest part of this," Cummins said during a stop at the Rolla Area Chamber of Commerce office Thursday.
    He said that his brother always thought he was a burden to society.
    "As I meet people along the way who share their stories about mental health, I tell them that you are not a burden. Rather the burden comes when you are gone."
    With more than 1,000 miles behind him, Cummins noted that he has only been rejected for a place to stay for the night twice. Otherwise, he has been amazed at the goodness and generosity of people from state to state who have opened their doors to him or their pockets to get him a nice meal as he passed through their town.
    He said that numerous people have shared their battles with depression or have seen the effects of suicide on loved ones or friends. Some have even walked with him for miles to be in solidarity with his mission.
    "Mental illness has such a stigma attached to it," he said. "Mention the words 'mental illness' and people think you are crazy or violent. I am trying to end that stereotype and to educate folks on what mental illness is on its most basic level."
    Rolla Mayor Lou Magdits honored Cummins's valiant efforts by proclaiming May 15, 2014, as Ian Walks America and Mental Health Day. However, Magdits was unavailable Thursday during Cummins's visit, so Rolla City Council member Don Morris was on hand to present the proclamation to Cummins at the Rolla Area Chamber of Commerce in place of the mayor.
    Cummins said he was grateful for a day off from walking as the chamber put him up for the night in a hotel. He then traveled to Waynesville on Friday.
    "Walking for me has really been something to help me clear my mind. This is a personal journey for me to  be able to cope and accept everything that has happened."

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