A walk to improve mental wellness

Photo by Will Huang

Photo by Will Huang

Wilfrid Laurier University’s Mental Health Education Group took another step toward eliminating stigma with their annual “Love My Life” walk on Oct. 1.

Love My Life: A Walk for Mental Health was organized to promote conversations about mental health. It is an event anyone with or without experiences with mental health issues could attend.

Around 300 students signed up at the event, not including others who walked around. The walk was from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and included therapy dogs, Zumba and speakers on mental health and depression from Laurier.

It kicked off with the Aboriginal Traditional Welcome, which included a blessing with incense to begin the walk. Speakers included fourth-year student, Dave Patterson, and other Laurier students who talked about their struggle with depression.

Shawn Soloman gave a talk about his struggle with bipolar disorder and suicidal tendencies. According to Soloman, he approached Kelly Oddi, the mother of Jon Oddi, who committed suicide and inspired the event, to talk about his pain.

“About a month after talking to Kelly, I had the worst depressive episode of my life,” said Soloman, “I was suicidal to the point I was ordered not to be left alone and I even forgot how to spell my mother’s name,” he said.

“One night when I thought about killing myself, I remembered my talk with Kelly and the impact that suicide had on her and her family. I believe that our brief encounter may have saved my life.”

Soloman hopes his story may help others struggling with mental illness to seek out support at Laurier.

Dave and Susan Lewis, the founders of Minds in Motion K-W Walking Classic, were also there to talk to students before the walk began. They were also accepting donations from participants to help provide footwear for victims of mental illness so they can use fitness for their recovery.

Brittney Kubitz, a third-year business student, said she enjoyed how the speakers talked about eating disorders and depression and how they overcame it.

“Even though they’re sometimes still struggling through it, [students] have support through Laurier.”

Bridget McDonald, the external coordinator for Peer Help Line, praised the event.

“Peer Help Line was out all day supporting the Love My Life Walk for Mental Health,” she said. “We had an absolute blast and were able to give out resources to tons of students. It was a great way for the whole Laurier community to show support for our peers who are affected by mental illness.”

Special Constable Services also hosted a barbeque during the event. The money raised went to the Special Olympics and Walk for Mental Health.

Amy Robinson, a student at Laurier who spoke for the first time at Love My Life, said speaking at the event was terrifying but empowering. She talked to students at the event about her rough childhood and her troubles dealing with depression and anxiety in high school.

During her speech, she related her struggles with mental illness with a metaphor about flowers needing water and soil to grow, much like how children need love and affection.

Robinson works for Laurier’s Student Health and Development Centre, is part of their advisory team and also has a volunteer facilitator position for workshops starting this winter.

“The ability to be in an environment that can surround you and strengthen who you are as a person I feel really encompasses a lot of Laurier and mental health and all the stuff we’re doing around to make people aware that it could be anything, from stressing out about midterms or it could be something much more serious. But it still all fits within that mental wellness framework,” Robinson said.

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