The community is known for being close-knit and supportive, and this event validated that reputation. Even though only 125 people had preregistered for the race, many more students, faculty, staff and friends showed up to take advantage of the multiple activities.
When asked whether they came for information on mental health or to enjoy the run, Lexi Lariviere, a junior film studies student from Madison, Connecticut, and first-year marine science student Sara Hopkins, from Hopatcong, New Jersey, responded enthusiastically about both—sharing their love for running and wanting to end the stigma surrounding mental health challenges.
Eckerd staff joined the participants in their excitement, with over 24 departments and organizations jumping at the opportunities to collaborate with event co-sponsors—Athletics and Eckerd’s Counseling Services. Kate Daigle, Eckerd’s executive director of counseling, health and advocacy services, says, “The goal was to get everyone involved in spreading mental health awareness and connect different departments to activities and booths that represent what mental health looks like within their arena.”
Various booths showed the links between a person’s well-being and what Counseling Services does. Daigle and her team wanted to promote positive and active coping skills through the different activities offered on campus, showing students the outlets available to release pent-up emotions.
The race was organized because research suggests that exercising and staying active can affect mental health in the best ways possible. “When we engage in physical activity,” Daigle explains, “it can be a crucial coping skill with multiple mental health disorders … Our body stores the emotions of those [disorders], and we need outlets.”
Running, along with other physical activities, has many positive benefits for mental health. Some students at Eckerd have already figured this out. First-year student from St. Petersburg, Florida, Mars Raiford says, “I use walking for my mental health … I feel like exercising gets your body thinking of something else that isn’t negative and gives you those hormones that make you happy.”
When asked about future events, Daigle says, “As far as the run, there was a lot of interest in if it will be an annual event, and the hope is that it will be annual, so I say, Stay tuned! We are very appreciative and grateful for everyone who turned out.”