Despite the sudden drop in temperature, dozens showed up to support and participate in the seventh Annual Race Away Stigma 5K at Hudson Valley on Saturday.
“The stigma still surrounds mental illness, even today,” said Larry Ellis, associate director of the Counseling and Transfer Center. “Everyone knows someone in their life who is struggling from a mental illness,” he said.
The main mission of the race is to remove the stigma associated with mental illnesses and encourage students that are suffering to not be afraid to seek help. According to the Wellness Center representatives, things like depression and anxiety are becoming a problem in colleges across America.
The coordinators of the event wanted to spread the word to the public by distributing fliers to nearby colleges and agencies. “We’re just raising awareness about the attachment that mental illness brings,” said student senator Kara Vanguilder, who also participated in the race.
The coordinators also hung up posters with words of encouragement hung around the student pavilion as reminders to those who are struggling with a mental illness not to feel alone. They set up sponsor booths stationed under the pavilion which had representatives from the new Wellness Center, Equinox, Ellis Medicine, and others.
“Unfortunately there’s so much stigma around [mental illness] that some people don’t seek the help they need and end up suffering more,” said Denise Stockwell, a mental health counseling intern with the Equinox’s Family Resources program. Stockwell also works with Hudson Valley’s Project Aware organization, whose mission is to raise awareness of mental, physical, and emotional health on campus.
“Warmer weather was my expectation for today, but we did have a great turn out,” said Joe Frazier, social services student. Frazier was also there representing the Project Aware team. Another main goal of the race was to bring awareness to the Wellness Center itself. According to Kathleen Sweener, the executive director of Student Development and Wellness, the center “provides a comprehensive and holistic approach to health education.”
The coordinators directed students to the Wellness Center, located upstairs in the Center. “We have licensed mental health counselors on staff that are trained to assist our students,” said Sweener. “We know often there is a barrier to accessing services, even when someone is aware they have a problem and aware of the services, they may feel stigmatized”.
There were a total of 115 participants ranging from eight to seventy years old. At the beginning of the race, the overcast turned into a rain shower. Finishing first in the race was Matt Crave from Niskayuna with a time of 18:09.
Finishing first in the 19 and under age group for the race was student Csaba Sperry. “I wanted to get out and run, meet new people, and be around people who care about this event and support the cause,” said Sperry.
After all of the participants crossed the finish line, an array of snacks and drinks were served in the pavilion. Registration began at 8:30 a.m. and remained open until the start of the race with a registration fee of $25, but free to Hudson Valley students.