Sudbury·Audio

Body energized, mind mentally clear: Why this Sudbury man is running a marathon for mental health

Darren Parker is training to take part in the Scotiabank Waterfront Toronto Marathon on October 22 with the hope of raising enough money and awareness to bring running counselling sessions to young people in his hometown of Sudbury, Ont., through the charity Cameron Helps.

Darren Parker is accepting charitable donations to bring running therapy sessions to Sudbury, Ont. youth

Darren Parker is planning to run in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 22 to raise awareness about suicide and mental health. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)
Darren Parker has been feeling the effects of suicide since he was 17-years-old. 

He said he lost three family members and has contemplated taking his own life, but now he is living by a new personal motto to never give up. 

"In the midst of difficult circumstances, we still can put one foot in front of the other," Parker said. 

"I just know that I personally can't afford to give up. I won't give up because there's lives of people who I absolutely love who literally depend upon it."

Parker credits his family, faith and running as his sources of strength. 

Running to 'work it through'

Now 51, he is trying to help others with their mental health issues use physical activity as a form of therapy.

"It absolutely helps keep my body energized and my mind mentally clear," Parker said.

"If I'm having a rough day ... when I go out for a run, while I'm running, I'm able to work it through."

On October 22, Parker plans to take part in the Scotiabank Waterfront Toronto Marathon with the hope of raising enough money and awareness to bring running counselling sessions to young people in his hometown of Sudbury, Ont. through the charity Cameron Helps.

Parker is accepting donations through his "courageous hope fundraising campaign."

He said he became motivated to start the initiative after participating in the Unbreakable Spring Open in Sudbury last April, which was launched by teenagers for the same cause. 

'A way to stop suicide'

Parker's openness and perseverance with mental health issues have become a source of inspiration for his son Joshua, 29, who is overcoming his own struggles. 

"I've spent a lot of time trying to overcome and change, but I just seem to keep reverting, and there are times where I kind of just throw in the white flag and say what's the point," Joshua said.

"When I hear my dad saying he's never going to give up, and I watch him ... It's rising up in me that desire to never give up."

Speaking publicly about suicide has not been easy, but Parker said he believes it is the right thing to do for encouraging prevention and eradicating stigma. 

"We are absolutely convinced that there is a way to stop suicide," Parker said.

"Or to help people who are dealing with severe depression and suicidal ideation, to help them come to a place of restored hope so they can actually see another way of managing life and to be convinced that life is actually worth living."

About the Author

Olivia Stefanovich

Senior reporter

Olivia Stefanovich is a senior reporter for CBC's Parliamentary Bureau based in Ottawa. She previously worked in Toronto, Saskatchewan and northern Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter at @CBCOlivia. Story tips welcome: olivia.stefanovich@cbc.ca.