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Stepping on Stigma

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TAKING WING: Running for mental health came with whimsy for these racers.
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BUCK UP: Tammy Cooper, middle, walks with others in the Stepping on Stigma 5K.

By Leeann Doerflein - news@ftimes.com

More than 206 runners and walkers went around the Clinton County Fairgrounds track to help normalize mental health issues Saturday in the Health Communities of Clinton County Coalition’s second Step on Stigma Mental Health 5K.

The race was even better attended than the inaugural Step on Stigma race. Prior to race day, 206 had signed up, but several more registered on Saturday, HCCC Director of Operations Kathy Martin said.

Individuals, groups, families and even a few dogs joined the race to tell the world “It’s OK to not be okay.” Whether in running clothes, jeans and T-shirts or a butterfly costume, all were united in that purpose.

Saturday’s event was more than another awareness race. It was also part information and family fun fair designed to draw in as many people as possible to create buzz around mental health.

For the second year, the Buck Up Foundation joined the event. The foundation was started by Tammy and Rob Cooper of Rossville in memory of their son Brayton who committed suicide in 2016. Through the foundation, they offer support to families battling mental illness and raise awareness to reduce the stigma.

The Coopers and like so many other families impacted by mental health problems and the fallout.

“We have learned a lot since then about the need for mental health everywhere,” Tammy Cooper said. “We knew that we needed to get into schools and let people know that it is OK to talk about it, say that you need help and take medication. We wanted to open that line of communication about mental health … If we can just prevent one suicide, it is worth it.”

According to statistics from Mental Health America, over 40 million Americans suffer from some type of mental health condition while the number of youth impacted by mental health conditions continues to rise. Indiana ranks 41st in MHA’s ranking of states for mental health problem prevalence, with almost 20 percent of adults suffering from some mental health issue and 14 percent of youth experiencing depression.

To raise further awareness outside of this 5K, Martin said HCCC has held several events in the “Step on Stigma Movement” including activities at schools, basketball games and volleyball games.

Today, HCC has another mental health awareness event. Send Silence Packing, will be open to the public 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the fairgrounds. The event, put on by national mental health awareness organization Active Minds, is a solemn display of backpacks containing a personal story of an individual who committed suicide.