COLUMBIA (AP) - A Missouri father is walking across the state to raise awareness about mental illness, accompanied by his son and a documentary film crew.
Eric Norwine just wanted to make a movie about his father's trip through the state, but along the way something happened that made the journey more meaningful. About 16 of his friends opened up to him and shared stories about their struggles with mental illness.
"It was as simple as me bringing it up," Norwine said.
He was already passionate about the topic: Both he and his dad, Mark Norwine, have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
This week, the Norwines hoped to have a similar impact with students at the University of Missouri, where they stopped on the Columbia campus for a few hours.
The pair, along with film crew members, waited for people to come up and ask what they were doing before having conversations about mental health. They also stopped by the state Capitol in Jefferson City to talk with lawmakers as part of their plan to interview mental health professionals, political figures and others affected by mental illness.
Mark Norwine said he planned to stop at several schools to speak at assemblies, particularly in rural areas where there are fewer resources for mental health. He has plans to stop at Lafayette High School and Parkway North High School in the St. Louis area next week, as well as making an appearance at St. Louis University.
He said he shares his own story about being diagnosed with bipolar disorder at his stops because children can "smell a fake" and are more open with him if he is honest.
Maria Craft, awareness project coordinator at CHADS Coalition for Mental Health in St. Louis, where Mark Norwine works, said he could help young people who are struggling, as issues such as depression can come out during stressful times of transition.