About 50 participants raised more than $5,300 for mood disorder and mental health programs at Thompson’s sixth-annual Defeat Depression walk Sept. 15.
But for the organizers and supporters of the event, the money raised is only part of what makes it special, with the awareness it raises about mental health issues and the resources available to support people struggling with them equally important.
“Depression is close to my heart because I’m still recovering from it and events like this and working for Mood Disorders, it’s a lot easier for me to feel less stigma and to be able to share with people instead of feeling shame about myself all the time about my illness," said Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba Burntwood region outreach manager Stephanie Third-Vickers. “I just want you tall to know that there is no shame. Just keep focusing on whatever you have and thank you very much for coming out.”
The event was co-hosted by the Hope North Suicide Prevention and Life Promotion Committee.
“We’re raising funds for local mental health services,” said committee member Liz Lychuk. “Proceeds from today’s walk will go toward the Mood Disorders Association and Hope North Suicide Prevention and Life Promotion committee. Beyond the money is the opportunity for us as a community to come together to raise awareness and advocate for those that are living with a mental illness. Together we walk to empower people living with mood disorders.”
The event was sponsored by Vale, which recently signed up to support all of Canada’s Defeat Depression events.
“We are pleased to announce that Vale has signed on as the new national title sponsor for the Defeat Depressions across Canada with a gift of $75,000 per year over the next three years,” said Tara Richie of Vale’s Manitoba Operations. “Mental health is a big issue and we all need to continue to work together to make a difference. At Vale, mental health accounts for about 30 to 40 per cent of the lost days in our operations so we take mental health very seriously. We have a joint mental health group that’s been working hard to reduce the stigma associated with people struggling with depression and other mental health issues. We also offer mental health first aid training for leaders within our operations so they can better identify and support employees who are in crisis and assist them with getting help.”
Thompson MLA Kelly Bindle related a message he had heard from the guest speaker at a health and safety seminar who had struggled with depression and addiction and is now recovering.
“If someone is suffering, just listen. You can’t tell them what to do, you can’t talk down to them, but if you listen you can do miracles so today the mental health association is fundraising to get the word out so that people can listen. It’s quite surprising that an illness like this that affects so many people actually has a stigma but it does and it’s that stigma that makes it develop into a worst-case scenario. That’s what we want to work against. We want to get the word out and we certainly appreciate all of you coming and helping.”
Ron Buchanan, who started Thompson’s Defeat Depression walk when he was working for the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba, said awareness and acknowledgement of mental health struggles is vital.
“The reason I’m involved in this is I did go through a bad bout of depression in past years and it really creeps up on you,” he said. “It happens so slowly that you really don’t know what’s wrong so it’s really important for other people to learn about it as well.”