Two months ago, the estimable Kristen Bell wrote about her struggles with mental illness.
She writes, “When I was 18, my mom sat me down and said, ‘If there ever comes a time where you feel like a dark cloud is following you, you can get help. You can talk to me, talk to a therapist, talk to a doctor. I want you to know that there are options.’”
Tipping her hat to the matriarch of the family for her honesty and support, Bell’s essay struck a responsive chord among readers and prompted them to open up about the curve balls their mental illness has hurled at them.
They aren’t the only ones.
The Make A Difference Race
The Make A Difference Race is a running event – unlike any other – sought to raise awareness and overcome the stigma of depression and other mental illnesses. From the response the initiative has received, it looks like more people are going public with their struggles with the invisible disorder – and it’s about damn time.
The masterminds behind The Make A Difference Race – Kate Ho, Linette Sung, Joel Wong, and TOUCH Community Services – are pulling out all the stops to encourage people to take the first step to seek support.
After a beloved family member died of depression, Kate was motivated to organise a running event as an outlet to “springboard [their] advocacy” for the silent subject. She decided to rope in Linnette, Joel, and the TOUCH Community Services to get the ball rolling.
Joining them as their ambassador is local actress Eelyn Kok. In an interview with The Straits Times last year, the 37-year-old talked about her painful past and compared the deep dark holes of her depression to a downward spiral. She confessed, “Wallowing in self-pity was very addictive.”
Fortunately, she triumphed over the stumbling blocks and is now back on her feet.
This Year’s Theme: Light of Hope
Themed “Light of Hope”, participants will be wearing lights on their shoes, which denotes “bringing light and hope to the world”. On top of that, they will also receive a set of 7 rainbow-coloured wristbands engraved with optimistic messages.
In addition to the event’s signature 3.5 km Buddy Fun Run and 7 km Competitive Run that will take place at Gardens By The Bay, the organisers will also be cooking something up important – they’re hoping to give individuals with mental illness a leg up in their career.
This year, The Make A Difference Race is partnering with companies like Giant, Horsburgh, and Kaplan Learning Institute to provide new job opportunities.
The team’s initiative, “Give Them A Chance @ Work”, is also a showcase of companies which have pledged their support for individuals with mental health conditions by providing them work opportunities, and their wish of further breaking down misconceptions society still holds.
On Collaborating and Facing Hiccups
On fighting the mental health stigma, James Tan, the executive director of TOUCH Community Services, said, “TOUCH believes that the best form of support for people living with mental health conditions must be found in the community. We’ve discovered that the community has a lot to offer and we can better understand and connect with people living with mental health conditions, their caregivers and healthcare providers.”
Despite facing hurdles (Kate cites “operational and management aspects”) whilst overseeing the event, the team remains optimistic. Kate shared, “We’ve learnt the importance of constantly reminding ourselves why we started this race in the first place.”
“We must always choose to focus on and be thankful for the positive things that have happened, instead of dwelling on things that had turn out less than expected. This helps us to continue running this cause cheerfully and willingly.”
Overcoming The Stigma
The thing about mental illness is that you never heal from it completely. A healthy lifestyle and therapy might tame it – but it can only do so much.
Much like the temptation in an addiction recovery, our inner demons will always be there, hiding behind the curtain, at arms. Mental illness, we can’t eliminate it. But the stigma surrounding it, we can.
Registration is now open at The Make A Difference Race. It’s on us to make the word a better place.
Featured image credit: The Make A Difference Race