“Overwhelmed with gratitude,” the organizers of Saturday’s Defeat Depression walk/run said they consider the event to be a successful fundraiser and a positive way of getting their messaging out.
“Mental health challenges hurt us all,” event fundraising co-ordinator Lindsey Chamberland told Sudbury.com as a group of more than 350 people began making their way around the Bell Park area.
“Post-COVID, there’s more understanding that mental health impacts everyone,” Northern Initiative for Social Action executive director Martin Boucher said. “That’s always been true, but I think it’s more visible now.”
Approximately 250 people registered for Saturday’s event, but Boucher estimated there were an additional 100 people on top of that, plus a healthy collection of their canine companions.
The effort’s fundraising total hit $60,446.45 by the time the walk began shortly after 10:30 a.m., with an additional $10,000 believed to have been collected on top of that. With online fundraising ongoing (click here), Boucher said the total could end up peaking even higher.
“We can really be strategic and creative about how we use the money, so we hope it will benefit people mostly directly, but also make sure we can deliver services and the organization can run smoothly for the next year,” Boucher said.
The local organization offers programming, such as mental health groups, teams that go to the hospital, a team that aids those exiting the justice system and various other efforts to help people with regard to mental health.
“We’ve got workers pretty much everywhere in the city,” Boucher said.
This year’s top fundraising team was Greater Sudbury Utilities, whose members raised $5,293.45 through personal pledges, a parking spot draw and various other efforts.
“Everyone has their own specific reason” to participate, marketing and communications specialist Claude Sharma said.
While the funding angle is important, Boucher said another central element to Saturday’s walk was its ability to raise awareness about mental health.
“We really want people to feel comfortable talking about mental health,” he said, adding that with hundreds of people gathered on Saturday and a changing climate in which mental health is being discussed more commonly, this appears to increasingly be the case.
“The opioid crisis in the city is definitely relevant to how people are talking about mental health,” he said. “It’s a tough time socioeconomically for a lot of people, and with that, you get a lot of mental health issues and substance use issues.”
During introductory speeches, Sudbury NDP MPP Jamie West shared his mental health story, offering that although there are statistics regarding how many people experience mental health challenges, “I think we’ve all been there” to varying degrees.
It wasn’t until family members pointed out that he was acting differently that West said he recognized he was dealing with mental health challenges following a death.
Local event founder Lori Glibbery organized Sudbury’s first Defeat Depression event 10 years ago after her husband, John Cowling, died by suicide.
Wanting to do something to raise awareness, she learned about Defeat Depression events going on elsewhere, and opted to organize one locally.
“I didn’t want people to feel alone and I wanted to give them hope,” she said. “Change has come in baby steps, and we need to keep moving forward together as a community to fight this battle.”
For help in various fields, including mental health, phone 211 to be connected to real people 24/7 offering services in more than 150 languages.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.