AMHERST, N.S. – The more you talk about mental illness, the more the stigma decreases. The same goes for “walking about it.”
That was the thinking behind Amherst’s first Let’s Walk About It event, a mental health awareness walk that took place under sunny skies today.
The walk was a replacement of sorts for the Minds in Motion Walk, which had traditionally been put on every year during Mental Health Week.
“Minds in Motion didn’t happen this year so that’s why we thought we would do this,” said Janice Melanson, a volunteer with the Cumberland Mental Health Association and chair of the local CAST (Communities Addressing Suicide Together) group. “It’s basically the same thing, but we have partnered with the SOAR Community Health Board and the YMCA lunch program.”
Participants gathered at the YMCA for a warmup led Laura Farrow, before leaving for the Big Block Walk. They had their choice of doing either one, two or three loops of the walk before gathering back at the YMCA for lunch.
Alison Lair, community support coordinator at the YMCA, said she wanted to join in the effort to help raise awareness for mental health.
“I think people need to be made more aware of mental health issues, to decrease the stigma around it,” she said. “It’s a huge thing. So many people are affected by mental illness.”
The stigma is the largest impediment to people getting help, according to Melanson, who lives and deals with depression herself.
Although the Minds in Motion committee felt that event had run its course, people like Colleen Dowe, coordinator of the community health boards in the county, felt there was still a need.
“Linking to the community kitchen we thought was brilliant because it will draw attention to the community kitchen (offered at the YMCA every Wednesday at noon) and it hits every one of our priorities – mental wellness, physical activity, social engagement, and awareness… and fun.”