5K for mental health awareness


Hannah Preissner

Community members, UWO students and staff participate in the annual 5K for mental health and suicide awareness at Oshkosh North High School.

Seven hundred participants showed up for the annual 5K for Mental Health and Suicide Awareness at Oshkosh North High School last Saturday.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness hosted the 5K. NAMI provides education, advocacy and support to help people cope with mental illness.

NAMI Executive Director Mary Lord Janness said the organization started in the 1970s in Madison.

“It was started by two women whose sons suffered from schizophrenia,” Janness said. “They were looking for better care for their sons. They decided to have a national conference, and they felt they had a small crowd that turned out to be hundreds of people, and by the end of that conference, they started a national organization.”

The event is designed to raise awareness of mental health issues and to assist with funding NAMI Oshkosh’s efforts towards local prevention, education and advocacy in Winnebago County.

Janness said the 5K run was started by a woman who lost her son to suicide.

“After a few years it got to be too much for her, and she gave it to NAMI to do,” Janness said. “We’ve been doing it for the last several years.”

unners participate in mental health awareness run
Hannah Preissner

Participant Lawrence Brock said he wanted to run because he had a family member pass away due to mental health issues.

“It’s important to run just to be supportive and raise awareness,” Brock said. “It’s good to get more people involved in these things.”

Participant Tracy Hans said she ran for her cousin who lost his battle to mental health and committed suicide in 2014 at the age of 17.

“Since 2015, we have been doing a team every year for him,” Hans said. “These runs spread awareness, and we need to end the stigma that it is so bad to talk about when you have issues and when people are struggling and for people to get help when they need it instead of taking their own life.”

unners participate in mental health awareness run
Hannah Preissner

Welcome speaker and former running back for the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers Harry Sydney said people have to understand they can all make a difference.

“It all starts with one person,” Sydney said. “When you walk in and go out there, trying to make a difference, you can change things. I can change things. But it starts with one person, regardless of how big or small.”

Singer-songwriter Camille Rae, who performed at the event, said a little over a year ago, someone who meant a lot to her took their own life.

“It’s very hard to deal with. There aren’t enough answers,” Rae said. “We just have to love each other, we have to see what’s going on, ask them if they’re okay. You are so loved, no matter how alone you may feel.”

Hans said she encourages more people to participate in runs.

“I do the one in Fond du Lac, and we do this one every year,” Hans said. “We try to get as many people as possible.”

Sydney said everybody has the power to make a difference and support one another.

“Every little bit helps,” Sydney said. “Be the person that makes a difference. Today, you have a beautiful day. Make it the start of something special.”