Heads up: Walk for mental health set for May 18

Lead The Way is celebrating mental health awareness month by scheduling a fun run and walk for the cause on May 18

When there’s a need in the community, Monroe Township nonprofit organization Lead The Way sets out to satisfy that need. With mental health advocacy on the rise, Lead The Way is looking to bring light to that nationwide phenomenon by scheduling a fun run and walk for May 18 at Owens Park with a rain date of May 19. May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

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Registration for the inaugural “Moving for Mental Health” fun run and walk will take place from 8:30 to 10 a.m. on May 18 at Owens Park. It is $10 for adults to participate, $5 for children. The fun run will begin at 10:15 with the walk starting at 10:30 a.m.

Deb DeFelice, vice president of Lead The Way, said they chose mental health advocacy because they want to bring more awareness, support and information to the community.

“Especially to the kids who have anxiety, depression and even autism,” DeFelice said. “We’re hoping to raise enough to start a program in the district for social skills, conflict resolution with peers, something to work out issues themselves instead of bottling it up and handling it in other ways.”

She added a lot of issues later in life, like opioid addiction, can stem from mental illness or anxiety.

The flier for the event shares facts about mental health. For instance, 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 live with a mental health condition. ADHD, behavior problems, anxiety and depression are the most common. It continues, saying 46 percent of adults experience a mental illness in their lifetime, and half of all mental disorders begin by age 14, three-quarters by age 24.

The event is personal for DeFelice, whose daughter struggled with depression. She said when her daughter was in high school if she had a problem and left class because of her mental illness she would be punished.

“It’s getting better now, you can get a pass and go to the nurse and be excused from class,” DeFelice added.

The walk will feature different vendors and activities for the whole family. Paws Healing Heroes, a nonprofit organization geared to helping veterans with post traumatic stress disorder, will have a booth. Nerf and Lilly, therapy chickens, will be in attendance as well. A bounce house and DJ will keep the good vibes flowing. Other programs, like City of Angels, Hope and Grace Ministry, Robins Nest and Oaks Integrated, will be there, too.

The goal is to bring the community together and bring awareness to this growing problem. A lot of things fall under the mental health umbrella, from Alzheimer’s to ADHD, anything that affects the brain is considered mental health.

“It’s something that affects all of us,” DeFelice said. “We should want to educate ourselves and be able to help others dealing with circumstances that are affecting the kids. Teens grow into young adults that are looking for something to cope with, an underlying issue. With addiction being so bad and overdoses, we need to get to the root of the problem, which nine times out of 10 is the mental health behind it.”

Registration for the event can be done online at Moving_For_Mental_Health.eventbrite.com or in person at the day of the event. For more information, visit the website above, Lead The Way’s Facebook page or the “Moving for Mental Health – Fun Run Walk & Wellness” Facebook event. Questions can be emailed to leadthewaymonroe@gmail.com.

Anthony is a graduate of Rowan University and a proud freelance contributor for 08108 magazine. He has past bylines in The Sun Newspapers and the Burlington County Times.
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