Sudbury students running to end mental health stigma

A group of students at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School want people in Sudbury, Ont., to lace up for mental health awareness at the 2018 Unbreakable Spring Open.

Registration kicks off for the 2018 Unbreakable Spring Open

Students at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School in Sudbury are organizing the 2018 Unbreakable Spring Open to raise awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental illness. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)

A group of students at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School want people in Sudbury, Ont., to lace up for mental health awareness at the 2018 Unbreakable Spring Open.

The goal of the 5 km run is to raise awareness about mental health issues in the community, and end the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Josh Tillson organized the first event in April, after he lost his step-father to suicide in 2016. Tillson says running helped him work through that difficult time in his life, and inspired him to raise awareness about mental health issues in the community.

The first Unbreakable Spring Open run drew over 450 participants and raised over $14,000 for Cameron Helps, a charity that offers run therapy programs for youth mental health.

"Everyone there was just giving off this positive energy that was beautiful to see, and everyone was open to talking and having fun," Tillson says.

Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School student Josh Tillson organized the first Unbreakable Spring Open after losing his step-father to suicide in 2016. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

"I had many people, over the course of the day, come up and talk to me and share their own experiences with mental health and things that they would've never been comfortable talking about, but this event gave them that voice."

Tillson wants to see next year's run grow, and this time he won't be doing it alone.

"We have an amazing group of students here that are all really, really passionate and really excited to organize this run," he says.

Bringing people together to end the stigma

Augustin Marks de Chabris participated in the run in April, and decided to get more involved as the director of the committee.

"There's a lot of stigma surrounding mental health, even now, so ... any kind of event that's raising funds for research and understanding of mental health, and the destruction of stigma around it, I think that's a great cause," he says.

For fellow committee member Mira Elstub, the cause hits close to home.

"I had a friend, he was suicidal and he had a hard time having people there to understand him," she says.

"I just feel like bringing people together, showing people that there are real issues like this even if you don't understand them, can really help others knowing that they have someone to talk to."

Click here for more information and to register for the 2018 Unbreakable Spring Open.

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