For the third year running, Lacombians will gather to raise awareness, show support and hopefully remove some stigmas surrounding a global health program.
On Sept. 10th, the third annual Walk for Wellness and Suicide Prevention will be held in Lacombe.
Heather Jackson was inspired to create such an event in Lacombe when she participated in a similar march in Edmonton after her son Wade took his own life at the age of 15. She said she thought it was important for her to share her story so that other people could benefit from it.
“I thought it was important that I speak and that I put myself out there, which wasn’t easy, but people appreciate it,” said Heather.
Heather started organizing the event herself and was soon joined by Barb Walker, coordinator for Lacombe Neighbourhood Place. Walker said she finds the walk a very important part of her job and one that sees perhaps the most support from the community.
“I find that this is a very meaningful part of my work here at Neighbourhood Place,” said Walker.
Part of the goal of the Walk for Wellness and Suicide Prevention is to take away some of the stigmas and stereotypes associated with mental health. Walker said that, all health issues, regardless of whether they are mental or physical in nature, should be treated as real problems.
“What we need to focus on is that it’s a health problem, not the mental part,” said Walker.
Heather added people don’t understand what they can’t see or explain themselves.
She gave the example of depression, saying many people think it’s something caused by a sad event that people will just get over eventually. But the condition it is more complicated than that.
Still, depression and anxiety are two of the most commonly diagnosed health problems today even though society and even medicine do not completely understand them.
However, they are treatable conditions, said Walker. She added that medicine is never perfect and treatment won’t always work all the time, but options still exist for those suffering from depression and other mental health concerns.
Yet it is difficult for many people in need to receive the treatment or help they need because of the fears associated with mental illness, said Walker.
“I think we are just afraid of it,” said Walker. “And it’s not an easy problem and therefore its something that we would rather sometimes hide than face. But if you keep it hidden, you can’t get help.”
Part of what the walk hopes to accomplish is to dispel those fears and allow people to open up and talk about mental health and suicide.
Heather added people don’t want to talk about suicide because it is something of a taboo topic, but it is important to change that view and make people comfortable with the idea of discussing suicide because that is the only way the problem will get better.
“The more we open up about it, the easier it will get to talk about it,” said Heather.
While the event deals with a serious topic, it tries to be a happy occasion. Heather said it is important for the event to be positive so that people will continue to come, because people won’t want to keep coming to an event that they find depressing in itself.
Walker wanted to note that the past two years the walk has been held, it received some funding through grant programs. This year, it is entirely funded by donors in the community.
“The community support is overwhelming,” said Walker. “That’s another way that it is changing.”
The Walk for Wellness and Suicide Prevention event will begin at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 10th at the Lacombe Memorial Centre with refreshments and sharing of resources. At 5 p.m., there will be a short program followed by the walk itself at 6 p.m. Following the walk, which takes a short route downtown, there will be a barbeque where participants can gather to visit and socialize.
Heather wanted to make it clear that everyone is welcome to come to all, or just part of the event as well. Not everyone has to participate in the walk to partake in the event but can choose which parts they want to take advantage of. Those who are taking part in the walk are asked to wear white t-shirts.
For more information contact Heather Jackson at 403-782-4024 or Barb Walker at 403-782-0886.