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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A walk will do you good

Randi Rinaldi speaks to walkers before step-off
Tom Gillespie

“Please take time to enjoy the scenery and remember why we’re all here,” Randi Rinaldi told a crowd of over 300 waiting to take part in Darcy’s Nature Walk for Mental Wellness at Fireman’s Park in Bellevue on June 13. Crowsnest Pass Health Foundation is a partner with the Rinaldi family in the annual walk that raises funds for local mental health initiatives.

Randi’s mother, Darcy Rinaldi, grew up in the Crowsnest Pass and was an active member of the community involved in numerous pursuits. Then in December 2007, Darcy unexpectedly died from suicide. Darcy’s family organized the first walk in 2008 with her in mind to increase awareness about the importance of maintaining positive mental health.

View of Turtle Mountain from the Nature Walk Trail
A 2003 study by Dr. Ping Qin found that a family experiencing a suicide is about 3.5 times more likely than the general population to experience another suicide death of an immediate family member. Sadly, the Rinaldi family suffered a second tragic loss when Darcy’s son, Kelly, also died from suicide in 2013.The walk continues to honour the memory of both Darcy and Kelly.

A heavy downpour of rain just 24 hours before this year's event did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of walkers, many of whom return for the walk year after year. Over the five kilometre trail, they were treated to sunshine and spectacular views of the beautiful Crowsnest Pass. For those who prefer, a shorter walk route through the streets of Bellevue was also available.

Thanks to the $9,000 raised at Darcy’s Nature Walk in 2015, a Mental Health First Aid course will be held this fall in Crowsnest Pass. The course enables early detection of warning signs that may indicate risks to mental health and will be offered free of charge to health care providers and anyone in contact with people at risk for mental health issues.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), a commonly held misconception is that people don't recover from mental illness. In fact, people who experience mental illnesses can and do work, volunteer, or contribute their unique skills and abilities to their communities. Even people who experience long- term mental illnesses can learn to manage their symptoms and get back to their goals.

The “Faces of Mental Health” program, also funded by the foundation with nature walk proceeds, aims to dispel myths about mental illness. Displays featuring local residents who have struggled with mental health issues are set up in Crowsnest Pass Health Centre and other sites in the community during Mental Health Month in May. 

The Luini family (L-R, Garry, Griffin and Whitney) enjoyed the day
“The fact local people are willing to have their faces in displays encouraging more open talk about mental health really helps reduce the stigma,” said Willie Chorney, a foundation trustee. “I used to hide that my father had mental health issues when I was young, but things have changed a lot since then and people are beginning to realize it’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” Chorney said.

The CMHA also says regular physical activity improves psychological well-being, reducing depression and anxiety. Tactics like joining an exercise group or a gym can reduce loneliness by connecting you with a new set of people sharing a common goal.

Nature Walk funds were used to present Yoga for Wellness classes and a Pedometer Challenge held in 2014. “People really enjoyed the challenge,” Chorney said, “not just because they increased their activity levels, it was also a great way to get out and make new friends, which is so important to mental health.”

Learn more about Darcy’s Nature Walk for Mental Wellness at www.darcysnaturewalk.com and Crowsnest Pass Health Foundation at http://cnphealth.ca

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