Organizers are hoping to have significantly more participants in the third annual Relay for Mental Health Awareness set for Oct. 1.
The event, which has walkers cover a 24-kilometre route across the city, (1-2 kilometers per participant) is meant to reduce the stigma about mental health issues, allow families and friends to remember and honour loved ones lost to mental illness, and raise money for local agencies helping people to cope.
Deb Steedman started the relay in 2015 after being diagnosed, at age 56, with depression, social anxiety and, ultimately, addiction.
“I had been suffering my whole life but there were barriers that stopped me from asking for help,” said Steedman. “There is still stigma. It’s definitely changing but there is still a lot of need for improvement.”
Participants in the relay, which begins and ends at Harmony Square, will carry signs with messages such as “Stop the Stigma” and “Stigma Kills” along with a list of local agencies that offer services to those with mental health issues. Among the participants, said Steedman, are those coping with illness and local mental health counsellors, but everyone is welcome to join in.
“Everyone knows someone with mental health issues.”
Steedman said 42 people have registered for the walk so far and she’s hoping for many more. Each participant will walk a maximum of one kilometre and will pass an LED torch to the next person. The relay runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Relay participants are asked to gather pledges for one of the local agencies that specialize in helping those with mental health issues, including the Canadian Mental Health Association, St. Leonard’s Community Services, Grand River Community Health Centre, Woodview, RPlaces Transition Centre, and H.O.P.E.
About $2,500 was raised at last year’s event and Steedman is hoping to double that.
There will be a celebration for participants at the Sherwood Restaurant on Colborne Street, including a buffet meal, entertainment by Trysted Sister, door prizes, and a gift for the participant who raised the most pledges.
Register at www.relayformentalhealth.ca.
Brantford Expositor 2017 ©