Highlighted in much of todays media and gaining much needed attention, mental health is finally under the microscope. The idea of taking care of our own mental health has never been more prevalent, and we all know someone who struggles with the burden mental illness can weigh us down with. The thing is, there is always more help needed to study and understand mental health and support those who struggle with it. Waiting lists are long, and access to mental health aid – though easier than in the past, is still a hurdle. Not to mention the stigma that can be associated with having a mood disorder.
Clay Williams is a hero for those of us struggling. This year Clay leads the Fourth Annual Canal Pursuit for Mental Health run relay from Port Severn to Kingston and all the way to Ottawa. This run relay raises funds and awareness for depression, helping end the stigma of mental illness, and encourages people to reach out for help. Clay organized this run relay in honor of his wife, his daughter and his sister who all suffer from mood disorders, and in memory of his two older brothers who took their own lives.
For the first two years of this event, Clay ran the full 750 km along the Trent Severn and then Rideau Canals, the first year running an average of 90 km per day and ending on Parliament Hill. Before the run started, Clay asked people struggling with depression, anxiety, any mood disorder to sign his Canadian flag, and carried that flag the full distance of his run to Ottawa as a symbol that they don’t have to carry their burdens alone.
This year’s run will take place from Aug 18th to 25th, 2018 volunteer relay runners are still needed to run 10 km segments in pairs.
“The conversation that we want to promote with this project is two-fold”, says Clay. “First, if you’re struggling with a mood disorder, talk to someone you trust. The second part of the message is that physical activity can help make many symptoms of mood disorders more manageable, fitting in with the national Defeat Depression campaign. We all have an important role to play in removing the stigma around mental illness, so that people can feel comfortable reaching out to seek treatment.”