By Justin Schellenberg, October 6 2017 —
Coordinators and participants are gearing up for the fifth-annual Outrun The Stigma (OTS) walk and run on Oct. 14 at the University of Calgary. Registration for the event opens at 8:30 a.m. before kicking off at 10 a.m. at the quad outside the Taylor Family Digital Library.
“What we’re aiming to do is really promote mental health and try to dispel the stigma around mental illness,” OTS Calgary chapter co-chair Tina Guo said.
The walk and run is a fundraising event to support the Calgary Distress Centre, a free 24-hour crisis intervention service.
“Our fundraising goal for this year is $17,000 and we’ve already exceeded that,” Guo said. “We’re really excited to see how much we can fundraise this year. Hopefully we can break some records.”
Distress Centre director Diane Jones Konihowski said that money raised will go towards recruiting, training and supporting the volunteers that help run the crisis program.
Konihowski said former OTS members who volunteered at the Distress Centre came up with the idea of fundraising for them.
“We’re just so appreciative of this group of U of C students who have taken it upon themselves to promote our services to their fellow students, as well as to their faculty,” Konihowski said. “We’re always looking for donations and for people to support the work we do.”
The event will be followed by a mental health expo, also on the TFDL quad, from 10:30 a.m.–1 p.m. It will feature speeches and musical performances, as well as games and activities.
OTS planning committee member Sara Mallett said she is excited for this year’s event, which features a ‘find your happy place’ theme.
“I’m most looking forward to the great conversations that I think I’ll have with people,” Mallett said. “As soon as you start opening up and sharing your mental health journey, that kind of helps to break down the stigma and erase it.”
“Mental illness is an illness. It’s not a choice, it’s not imagined,” Guo added. “It’s something real that is equally as important and substantial as a physical illness.”
Participants can register for the walk and run online at www.outrunthestigma.ca as well as at the event on Oct. 14.