Twenty-three year old Ian Cummins has long wanted to make a trek across the United States but after taking a job right out of college, never found a good time to do it.
Then, in November of 2013, his 20-year-old brother Ryan took his own life. That's when Ian said the idea for walking across America came right back to him.
"At first it was something to help try and grieve and cope with the process of losing him but I said that can only be part of it," he said. "I can spend this whole trip asking 'why' and 'what if' but maybe there's something I can do for others."
Ian began his walk in Virginia Beach on March 1 and in three months time made it to the Wichita area. His "Ian Walks America" mission is to spread awareness about mental illness, raise money for the National Alliance for Mental Illness Southwest Pennsylvania group and talk with others about these problems in our nation.
"When we don't talk about it, when we don't bring this up in conversation on a regular basis, it becomes overlooked," said Ian. "So, I think before we can actually move forward in research, move forward in funding, move forward in understanding, we first have to know there is a problem."
Although Ian is walking by himself for most of his cross-country trek, many people have already offered him kind words and support, he says. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback also wrote a personal note to Ian, thanking him for his efforts to raise awareness.
"I really appreciate him writing that and I'm so happy that it's been heard by people who can make a difference," said Ian.
Gov. Brownback also recently announced efforts to improve resources for the mentally ill in Kansas by dedicating nearly $10 million to fund and expand those resources. Even so, when it comes to the stigma surrounding suicide, Ian says, our nation still has a long way to go. But so does he, and he hasn't stopped yet.
"If I were to have done this trip back when I originally thought about it, I don't know if I would've made it as far as I have now," Ian said. "Though my brother is gone and he's not coming back, he still has a story."
For more information on Ian's story, visit his website here.