The Latah Alliance on Mental Illness, Latah Recovery Center, Disability Action Center Northwest and 3Forks Bike Shop will host the kickoff to Moscow’s Mental Health Awareness Walk on April 9 from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at the Palouse Clearwater Environmental Institute.
In past years people walked as a group, Sharlisa Davis, Latah Alliance on Mental Illness community outreach coordinator said. This year, community members will do the walk on their own and post about it on social media to raise awareness due to the pandemic.
The in-person kick-off at the Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute will feature a livestream of speakers discussing topics relating to mental health, Davis said. Community members can complete the 5k then and there, or they can participate remotely.
Vicki Leeper, Disability Action Center Northwest outreach coordinator, said the livestream will come from the secondary walk being held up in Post Falls, Idaho.
People attending the walk in Post Falls will walk from a park over to the Chamber of Commerce, where the speakers will be presenting in-person as well as virtually, Leeper said.
Davis said there will be four speakers who will discuss why mental health matters, why talking about it is important and they might speak about their personal stories involving mental health.
“[This is] a community engagement for bringing awareness about mental illness and the stigma around it,” she said.
Even though the kick-off for the walk is April 9, people can participate through the month of May, which is Mental Health Awareness month, Leeper said.
“You can do your walk at a different time if that’s more convenient for you and then just post your information to our social media,” Leeper said.
Davis said she started this walk in 2019 because she wanted to draw focus to an important topic while also getting people to get active and do things to boost their energy.
She also wanted to bring people together because mental health illnesses tend to leave people believing they are alone when they are not, she said.
“We do better when we have a partner, so when we’re not doing it alone, that’s encouraging,” Davis said.
Leeper said there is a negative stigma around mental illness and people are not seeking proper treatment because of it.
“We want to change that conversation about mental health and that it’s not something you chose,” she said. “It’s a disease just like cancer and nobody would deny a person the ability to get medical help if they had cancer.”
People should be seeking treatment for their mental health issues, but if there is a continuous negative stigma revolving around it, people tend to not reach out or tell people they are fine when they are not, Leeper said.
Leeper said she is looking forward to seeing all of the people come out this year and is hoping to see a good turnout for the livestream as well as people posting about their walk on social media.
“Getting back to where we could be in-person, you see this group of people and these are your friends and neighbors in your community and they’re supporting mental health, that says a lot,” she said.
For people interested in the walk, registration is free on the Latah Alliance on Mental Health events page, Leeper said.
When people register, they will get a bag full of items such as a green T-shirt and light-up shoelaces to wear on their walk, she said. They are entered in a raffle to win prizes as well.