'Run Your Heart Out’ 5k promotes campus mental health awareness

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Lexi Horsey | The Daily Wildcat Campus Health is located on the corner of Sixth Street and Highland Avenue. The center officers health services to UA students, faculty and staff.

The Student Health Advocacy Committee is promoting mental healthcare through physical health just in time for Valentine’s Day.

SHAC will be hosting its first Valentine's Day-themed “Run Your Heart Out” 5k event this Sunday, Feb. 17, to promote mental health awareness on the University of Arizona campus. All proceeds will benefit UA Counseling and Psych Services.

The race begins at 9 a.m. on the UA Mall, with registration beginning an hour prior. The $15 admission fee includes a free t-shirt and a chance at winning AirPods, gift cards and other small prizes.

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SHAC is a student-led organization through ASUA that works in tandem with the university, the community and nationally recognized health campaigns to improve student health and wellness on campus.

According to SHAC’s website, the committee has been working to advocate for student health since 1977 and led the UA’s conversion to a tobacco-free campus, trained campus organizations in Chest Compression-only Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, provided Influenza vaccinations and set up outdoor fitness stations across campus.

“Run Your Heart Out” is based on runs SHAC has organized in the past, particularly “Run For Your Life”, an annual event to raise money for flu vaccinations for Tucson Hope Fest. According to co-director Sara Meri, a junior physiology major at the UA, SHAC used to put on annual “Run For Your Life” 5k races but stopped last year.

The idea for “Run Your Heart Out” has been in planning stages since October, Meri said, having had to reserve the Mall months in advance.

SHAC has promoted mental health in the past, though it has often taken a backseat to fitness, wellness and medical health. Donating the proceeds to CAPS seemed like a good way to kick off a greater focus on mental health.

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“We want to make it our goal to emphasize mental health on campus, promote awareness for the services that Campus Health provides and increase tolerance for mental health issues,” Meri said.

According to Mental Health America, more than 44 million adults in America have a mental health condition. Since 2015, the percentage of American adults with mental illness has only slightly decreased, from 18.19 percent to 18.07 percent.

According to Meri, CAPS has reported an uptick in the number of UA students seeking counseling and psychological services. The entire nation has experienced a similar increase.

Colleges saw a 30 percent rise in students seeking counseling services between 2009 and 2015, according to the American Psychological Association. This is likely due to the success of mental health education campaigns across the country in recent years.

The uptick continues to grow. Meri said SHAC wants to support the influx by donating to CAPS so students who want to seek help are capable of doing so, even if they would not otherwise be able to afford it.

Junior Skyler Kopit, a psychology and physiology double major and the social media chair for SHAC, has made “Run Your Heart Out” her personal project to help remove stigmas around mental health at the UA.

“Students can be quiet about these things,” Kopit said. “There is a certain stigma around talking about it, and this is a great way to let people know that they have resources on campus.”

As SHAC’s marketing executive, senior Jesus Otamendi  said he knows how exposure can influence people’s outlook on an idea. He would like to see SHAC have a greater focus on student mental health, starting with “Run Your Heart Out”.

“Having events where a dialogue on important topics is discussed gets people engaged on these topics and provides people with a better understanding on the topics such as this one,” Otamendi said. “Mental health applies to everyone and should not be shamed by anyone.”

Some SHAC members, like Meri and Kopit, say they are open to making “Run Your Heart Out” or an event like it annual, if this year’s run turns out well.

The event has already proven to be successful, as SHAC is expecting 100 participants to attend. According to Kopit, there was never a financial goal for the 5k, but SHAC only wants to raise “as much as possible” for CAPS.

The greatest part about planning this event is knowing that all of the proceeds are going towards a good cause,” Otamendi said. “In the future, I would like to see SHAC create more events like this one that focus on mental health.”


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