On Saturday, March 12, the UBC Mental Health Awareness Club teamed up with UBC Rec and Mood Disorders Society of Canada to host a five kilometre Defeat Depression run/walk on campus.
Defeat Depression is a Canadian fundraising campaign that encourages discussion and raises awareness around depression and other mood disorders. They hold runs, walks and other physical activities throughout Canada to raise funds for various community organizations that support mental health.
Fourth-year student Christina Kouvousis joined the campaign when she saw the event on Facebook. Kouvousis gathered a group of friends and siblings, including other students from SFU and Douglas College. Their team “Serotonin Squad” raised nearly $2,000 and is the top fundraising team for the event — Kouvousis is the top fundraiser overall with $1,880.
“My goal was just $500. It’s hard sometimes to ask other students to support you, but so many people came out and supported this particular cause,” said Kouvousis. “Our goal is to raise awareness. It’s just one of those things you need to talk about. It’s not an easy conversation, but once it starts, people get more comfortable opening up.”
Kouvousis and her team — who have all participated in other mental health campaigns — held a fundraiser when she found many of her friends were talking about problems they had that she didn’t know about.
“If you have a body, you’re going to be affected by a physical ailment. If you have a brain, you’re likely to be affected by mental health in some way,” said Kouvousis.
Most participants emphasized that this wasn’t a competition, but rather a way to get active in a community where physical activity can be tough to get involved in. Defeat Depression also highlighted that activities such as running and walking paired with social interaction is a strong way to break down the barriers of stigma while educating others.
Jane Wang, co-president of UBC Mental Health Awareness Club (MHAC), has been actively involved in the club since her first year at UBC.
“I came across one of MHAC events and it was good timing. I was struggling with the change of being at university and making friends,” said Wang.
There were around 100 participants in total and altogether surpassed UBC MHAC’s $7,000 goal during the event.
“Beside the monetary goal, our main focus is to engage the community to come and take an active position in supporting mental health awareness — those suffering as well as themselves — [and] to know it’s okay to talk about it. By getting everyone here, we have started a conversation,” added Wang.
This is the second year that UBC MHAC has hosted a Defeat Depression run and Wang is sure that it won’t be the last.