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Erasing the stigma around depression, mood disorders

Hundreds walk in Sudbury to show their support for people battling mental health issues

Almost everyone has either suffered from depression at some point in their lives, or knows someone who has. 

While awareness of the issue is becoming more common, a walk held Saturday at Bell Park aimed to help dispel some of the stigma still attached to mood disorders in general, and depression in particular.

Sudbury Defeat Depression attracted hundreds of participants, who walked or ran 2K, 4K or 10K, raising money for the Northern Initiative for Social Action (NISA) in the process. 

“I think they will be pleased with the funds raised today,” said Kevin McCormick, one of the event's organizers and president and vice-chancellor of Huntington University.

McCormick said a final fundraising total should be available sometime this week.

Huntington staff and volunteers help put the walk together, and the university was a silver sponsor of the event.

Isolation is one of the most difficult aspect of dealing with mental-health issues, and students are especially at risk with the pressures they face and a lack of a support network for those studying away from home.

McCormick said walkers Saturday were a diverse group, including family and supporters of those with depression. 

“I think people came for many different reasons,” he said, adding that he was heartened by the strong turnout. “It shows that we are a caring community, and that's something I truly believe.”

Education is an important aspect of helping people dealing with depression, he said. That there were so many young people on hand means they already know something about it, and are more likely to be able to recognize symptoms in themselves or their friends as they get older.

“Some people say you never really get past it,” McCormick said, making ongoing support and understanding so crucial.

The Defeat Depression Campaign is part of a national effort to “provide hope and reduce stigma for people who are affected by depression and other mood disorders,” their website says.

“Depression is a common illness affecting many individuals and families, and strikes all socioeconomic, educational, and cultural backgrounds. Physical activity such as walking and running, along with social interaction, can have a positive effect on mental wellbeing, and opening the dialogue on mental illness can help educate people and break down the barrier of stigma. 

The formal objectives of the campaign are to:

-- Raise awareness, knowledge and acceptance of mental illness;

-- Fundraise in support of mental health services;

-- Reduce stigma and create an environment that encourages people to come forward for early intervention and treatment;

-- Build a mental health network and increase collaboration across communities;

-- Provide resources and supports for indivudals living with mental illness and their families; and, 

-- Grow the campaign to new communities across Canada.

For more information, go to the Defeat Depression website.


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