Vancouver, BC – As an estimated one in five Canadians struggles with the effects of mental illness, members of the mental health community—including clients—and local singer Bif Naked are hoping to bring greater awareness to the condition through Vancouver Coastal Health’s third annual Walk-A-Mile for Mental Health.
“Walk-A-Mile – and Mental Health Week as a whole is about awareness,” says Health Minister Terry Lake. “While attitudes towards mental illness have definitely changed over the years, it’s important that we continue breaking down the stereotypes about mental illness and the people who suffer from it.”
For Bif Naked, participating in the walk is an opportunity to raise awareness and break down barriers for others. “I feel proud and privileged to join this lovely celebration of community and stand up for my neighbours, loved ones, colleagues and friends who are living with mental illness,” she says. “I believe it’s imperative that we end the stigma surrounding mental illness. We must deliberate, not only for change, but to transform and advocate for others, while uplifting them and encouraging our society to feel more compassion and be more understanding."
Walk-A-Mile for Mental Health first began at Riverview Hospital in 1990 as part of Mental Health Week, which brought together staff, clients, family members and the community. At its peak, the walk attracted more than 1,500 participants and partners from as far away as Squamish and Chilliwack. When Riverview closed and tertiary services moved to regional health authorities, a number of devoted staff worked hard to keep the tradition alive. The event receives strong support from community mental health groups, Fraser Health, Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, and local businesses within the Lower Mainland, all of whom have donated supplies and their time.
This year’s event, which was partially planned by residents of VCH’s Willow Pavilion, focuses on the theme of Mental Wellness for All. “The theme was chosen by the residents, because we all need mental wellness in our lives,” explains Chris Flynn, patient services manager at Willow Pavilion. “Even if you aren’t suffering from a mental illness, it’s important to take care of your mind as well as your body.”
Walk-A-Mile will begin at 10am on Thursday, May 7 on the green space next to the Vancouver General Hospital parkade on 12th avenue. Following the 1.6km walk around the VGH campus, a BBQ lunch will be offered by donation. Entertainment will be provided by the Pennington Hall Band, which is comprised of psychologists from across VCH.
VCH is responsible for the delivery of $3.4 billion in community, hospital and residential care to more than one million people in Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.
Viola Kaminski, Public Affairs Officer
Vancouver Coastal Health