Saturday, April 4, 2009

Run for the Cause - Mental Health Awareness

A little while ago, when the Sun Run began being widely advertised, I wrote an article on the lack of public awareness at a comparable level for mental health as for cancer. I didn’t publish the article because I spent so much time defending myself as not being against support for cancer treatment and awareness that the piece lost perspective.

Some highlights from the Canadian Mental Health Association’s statistical reports are 20% of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, 24% of adolescent deaths are the result of suicide, and 16% of adult deaths are the result of suicide. Additionally, mental illness costs are in the several billions of dollars for the health care system. (As a comparison, about 40% of people will develop cancer and 25 – 30% of deaths are the result of cancer. Numbers were obtained from the Canadian Cancer Society). These are not small numbers.

In the most recent issue of Psychiatric News is an article titled Helping Prevent Suicide Will Be Fashionable, which is what spawned this re-written article. The event is a fashion show of designer scrubs as well as various talks being given. Now, don’t get me wrong, the more awareness generated about mental illness, the better. However, most people don’t wear scrubs, not even most people working in the hospital, aside from nurses. The target audience is still confined to the medical community. And a lot of work does need to be done in that community, but we should be thinking big picture. And a ticket price of $75 doesn’t leave the doors open for a diverse audience.

While the fashion show is an interesting idea, I still believe the best awareness campaign would be of the walk-run-cycle type for the particular reason that exercise has a significant positive effect of the treatment and prevention of depression and anxiety. As such, a marathon event would not only raise awareness, but would also encourage, motivate, and educate those living with psychiatric illnesses on the benefits of exercise as well as kick-start their new healthy living routine.

There are runs for depression, anxiety, suicide, and mental health in general. But these are usually stand-alone, as opposed to annual, and local, as opposed to national, events. Some of them do quite well in brining in significant numbers of participants which is encouragement for the continued organisation of awareness/fundraising benefits.

I have been thinking about this issue for some time and wondered what would happen if someone, and I guess we’ll assume that someone is me since I’m talking big here, tried to organise a large event. I think the deciding factor for successfully drawing in large numbers of people would be PR.


A story of one Canadian man who ran 8499km across the country to raise awareness for anxiety (and other) disorders. This is a very inspirational story and his thoughts regarding exercise as treatment and the lack of awareness as compared to cancer are of special note.

is a run taking place on April 12, 2009 (in the US) for suicide prevention.

A 2008 event for postpartum depression.

A 2005 student campaign.

A 2007 event in the US.

One and two others.

1 comment:

  1. I found a poster on a telephone pole last week advertising for a mental health bike ride. Of course, the event had already passed. Hopefully next year the publicity will be better. If you are interested here is the link to the CMHA ride campaign which took place in Burnaby on September 6, 2009: