Raising awareness about mental health issues, New College students walk for life

On a beautiful Saturday morning, New College students woke up early to take to the streets, raising funds and awareness about mental health issues like depression and suicide. Manatee-Glens, the only non-profit and free mental health facility in the Sarasota-Bradenton area, organized a Walk For Life, involving students from middle school, high school and colleges.

VISTA coordinator and New College alum Monica Tambay (’07), who helped organize the group of attending New College students, spoke passionately about what the walk represents.

“[Mental health] is something that we tend to really stigmatize,” Tambay said. “I’m by no means an expert, but from my experience with students, and as a former student, especially at New College, they refuse to talk about it because they feel it shows weakness. We need a dialogue. With these walks, we can highlight this stigma that’s associated with mental health and try to take that away and help people instead of shunning them.”

Part of what set this event aside from others for more people was the large number of young people.

“There were mostly high school kids,” New College alum Jeremy Zorn (’07) said. “Other than that, it was pretty varied – people representing all kinds of demographics and age groups.”

According to Tambay, there was a contest going on in middle schools and high schools in the area to see which school could get the most participants involved. Many of them tied because of the greater-than-expected turn-out. According to registration announcers, more than a thousand people were present at the walk’s starting point.

Walking with these students were 117 families who came to represent the loved ones they lost to suicide. All of these families had lost someone in the past year.

“[The walk] honors those who are lost and makes sure people are aware and that these issues are very real,” Tambay said.

At 7:30 a.m., walkers arrived at Lamb and Sutton Park in Palmetto, where they received t-shirts and paid their fees ($10 for children, $25 for adults), the revenue of which went entirely towards Manatee-Glens. Then there was music, announcements, and introductions of other related organizations. At exactly 8:50 a.m., the walk began, covering a length of five kilometers.

It continued on over the bridge and around the marina and culminated in a gathering with food and raffles. Contest winners were announced and awarded, and monetary tallying began. The exact amount of money raised won’t be known until all of it is counted, which will take a few days.

Tambay hopes for students to become more involved and aware of mental health issues, especially since the walk happens each year and is always looking for more participants.

“Look at what you’re studying,” Tambay said. “Look at what you’re doing in your academic life, and draw on that, and develop your interests outside the classroom. Look outside the literature you’re reading and see what it’s all about, see how that translates into life. Sit down and reflect on what interests you in the literature and what you’re learning. There are organizations that can help you understand what you’re learning and develop those skills in a different way.”

In addition to Walk For Life, in another part of town, Payne Park, the American Heart Association (AHA) organized a “Heart Walk.” While it didn’t reach its monetary goal of $180,000, it did succeed in raising $110,173, which will be given to the AHA. According to their website, “cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of all Americans.”

If students wish to get involved with the AHA and their various causes, they are encouraged to visit http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/ for more information.

If students have mental health issues that they need to discuss, they are encouraged to visit Manatee-Glens for assistance. If they need to speak with someone but don’t wish to make themselves known, they can call their number: 941-782-4301

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