Mental illness and substance abuse are issues that many of us are aware of but often don’t know much about until it impacts our lives in some way. I learned firsthand how difficult it can be for those suffering from mental illness to get treatment when two of my friends committed suicide. In the first case, my friend had difficulty coming forward and asking for help because of the stigma associated with depression, and in the second case, my friend was able to admit she suffered from anxiety but found the system confusing, and had trouble finding appropriate treatment. The outcomes in both cases were tragic, and could have been prevented.

Issues such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse are difficult enough to deal with by themselves. Those suffering from mental health issues shouldn’t also have to deal with issues of stigma and fight for access to services. This year, I’m taking part in the RBC Race for the Kids: a run where every step is a step forward for youth mental health.

By supporting this event, I hope to help raise awareness of mental health issues. Stereotypes associated with mental illness often paint a picture of dangerous, unpredictable, and violent individuals. Many avoid seeking treatment or coming forward to admit there’s a problem to avoid public stigma. Raising awareness of mental health issues is the first step toward removing the stigma associated with mental health. Individuals, and especially youth, need to feel safe and know they will be accepted when coming forward to seek help.

Participation in the RBC Race for the Kids will help raise funds for youth mental health support services. Every year, families from all walks of life struggle to find the appropriate treatment for their child struggling with mental health issues. This can be a time consuming and frustrating process that ends up creating setbacks for everyone involved. Services such as the Family Navigation Project at Sunnybrook help connect families struggling with mental health and addiction issues with the appropriate treatment and support services. They help families to better understand the mental health care system, ensuring they get the help they need in a timely manner.

I encourage everyone to register for the RBC Race for Kids and raise funds in support of the Family Navigation Project.

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vicky leung

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