NAMIWalks Dane County: Why I Walk

By Karen Meadows, Walker

I walk for NAMI to find community and to build hope for those that struggle with mental health disorders. I walk for NAMI to raise awareness of the prevalence and both personal and societal cost of mental illness. In turn, as occurred with the Komen Race for the Cure, this awareness helps convince government and the private sector to increase research funding - essential to the discovery of better diagnosis, treatment and some day, perhaps, cures.

When our bright, articulate, fun loving daughter Sadie fell into a deep depression in middle school, our lives turned upside down and we were launched into our nation’s foreign and confusing mental health system. The next six years of our lives were a whirlwind of ever changing diagnosis and treatments. We tried medications, psychiatric hospital stays, therapy and residential treatment programs. Sadie fought her own battle trying to cope and rid herself of the pain she felt inside-cutting, running and living with street families. Every step of the way it felt like our daughter was slipping further and further away from us. As any parent of an adolescent that struggles with a mental health condition can tell you, you just want to make your child better. Not knowing how can be the most frightening thing in the world. Sadie died by suicide at age 18, shattering our lives.

I spent years after she died trying to answer the big “Why” question. Sadie’s writing, much of which we found after she died, gave me a unique perspective of how she felt on the inside. At the same time, I was stunned at how many people shared with me (sometimes with a whisper), their mental health struggles or the struggles of family members or friends. We had suffered in silence all those years not realizing just how many others were also silently suffering. The stigma is so powerful and harmful.

To make something positive come out of Sadie’s death, I decided to share our story. Using Sadie’s writing, Sadie and I were able to share our story in a book “Searching for Normal: The Story of a Girl Gone Too Soon”. In the book, I share resources such as NAMI, and advice I think might have helped us. I also talk about some of the recent developments that are paving the way for better diagnosis and treatments, which give me hope that others will not have to suffer Sadie’s fate.

I want the world to take note that we cannot afford to lose people like Sadie. I want society to stand up and say “this is unacceptable”. We can do this through our NAMI walks.

Please join me at NAMIWalks Dane County this Sunday, October 2nd, to raise awareness and reduce stigma. The event will be held at Olin-Turville Park in Madison, WI. Registration opens at 10:30am and the Walk begins at 12pm.

For more information about the event, to register your team, or make a donation go to 

If you would like to contact Karen or find out more about her book, please go to