JEFFERSON, Iowa - Mark Minear is on a mission.
A 342-mile mission.
"I would admit that this would probably be somewhere on the continuum of courageous to foolhardy, and some days I wonder where I land on that continuum," he said.
Rain or shine, Minear is walking from one end of the state to the other. From the Mississippi to the Missiouri River, he's averaging 28 miles per day, letting Iowans along the way know that mental health is just as important as its physical counterpart.
"Men are much less likely to seek mental health care than women - much less likely," he said. "They're also much more likely to end their suffering by taking their own lives. So, you put those two statistics together and that's enough to me that says, 'Okay, we've got to get men's attention here to take better care of themselves.'"
Minear is a psychologist at Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, where he's helped countless men get through mental illness. His walk isn't just raising awareness - it's raising dollars to help uninsured boys and men get the mental health treatment they need. As of Saturday - Day 10 of the 14-day trek - Minear has raised $8,700 of his $10,000 goal.
"I think it takes a special person to do what he does," said Dennis Goodrich, a patient of Minear's for the past three-and-a-half years. "Here's another guy telling me, you know, it's okay - you know, 'We're going to help you with this problem.' Not like, 'Man, you need to suck it up,' Like I think most guys think."
It's that stigma Goodrich says he faced as a male when coming to terms with his depression; the illness nearly cost him his life several years ago when he attempted suicide. Since then, he says he's thankfully found healing through therapy.
"I mean, I don't know how many times I went to see him and I'm thinking, 'I don't know what I'm going to talk about with him,'" he said. "And then, after an hour, I walk out and say, 'Well, okay, I guess I did have something to talk about!' You don't realize it until you actually sit down with somebody."
Dave Lingren, another patient, says the stigma men face with mental illness made it hard for him to take the leap and make an appointment the first time.
"You take that stigma about men thinking they're strong enough, and the taboo against mental health," he said. "And it was embarrassing the first time sitting in that waiting room."
But Lingren kept going; five years later, he says he's learned to heal. These patients are just two lives one man has helped save, and after this journey is said and done, Minear says he's happy enough with that accomplishment.
"There's a part of me that says, 342 miles across the state, to help one guy - somehow that's okay," he said. "Like, that's enough."