CLC to host 5K for Mental Health Awareness

Central Lakes College and Crow Wing Energized are co-sponsoring the first 5K for Mental Health Awareness event at the college's Brainerd campus on Saturday, May 7.

Central Lakes College entrance exterior
Central Lakes College.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — Alita Reque-Peterson knows what it’s like to struggle with a mental illness.

“I have struggled in the past with anxiety as well as postpartum depression when I had my boys,” said Reque-Peterson, a Central Lakes College psychology instructor.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Reque-Peterson wants to “stop the stigma” associated with treatable diseases such as clinical depression with events like the 5K for Mental Health Awareness.

Alita Reque-Peterson
Alita Reque-Peterson
Contributed / Alita Reque-Peterson

“I've been a runner, myself, for nine years, so it's personally been extremely helpful to just help mitigate my own mental health symptoms and help me stay healthy,” she said. “So I'm very personally passionate about what running can do for mental health.”

CLC and Crow Wing Energized are co-sponsoring the event, which begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 7, at the college’s Brainerd campus at 501 W. College Drive.


“We need to normalize reaching out for help. We need to normalize talking about our mental health needs. We need to raise awareness about the resources available,” according to the Facebook page for the inaugural event at CLC. “We’re hoping to help through our event.”

Those interested in the 5K chipped race or walk, or the 1-mile dedication walk, can register in person at the college from 3:30-5:30 p.m. Friday, May 6, or from 7:30-8:30 a.m. Saturday.

“We have a 1-mile walk option which will be a loop around campus that caters to anyone who wants to come out and participate and be supportive but maybe running is not their jam,” Reque-Peterson said.

The registration fee is $15 for the 5K run/walk or 1-mile walk, according to Reque-Peterson, one of the race directors for the event.

Map of the "5K for Mental Health Awareness" event route in 2022
The 5K run/walk and the 1-mile walk of the "5K for Mental Health Awareness" on Saturday, May 7, 2022, in Brainerd begin at Central Lakes College's south entrance.
Contributed / Alita Reque-Peterson

“We wanted to make this event accessible to all people,” she said. “And we know that not everybody is passionate about running, but they are passionate about supporting mental health or they have a loved one that struggled or they struggled themselves.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, loss and the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 made it a challenging time.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic is ebbing, its effects on our collective mental health are proving severe and long-lasting, particularly among younger people and marginalized populations — effectively, a pandemic within a pandemic,” according to a news release from the organization.

Nearly 2 in 5 adults in the nation struggled with mental health issues in 2020, compared to about 1 in 5 adults before the pandemic, according to NAMI, and only 46% received treatment in 2020, a number that is far lower among Blacks (37%), Hispanics (35%) and Asians (21%).


“The stressors that students have affect their mental health, so things like they can't afford textbooks or their car breaks down or they're about to get evicted,” Reque-Peterson said.

A portion of the proceeds from Saturday’s public awareness event will go to the CLC crisis and emergency fund program “Random Acts of Kindness.”

“It's a crisis emergency fund to help students out of a one-time crisis situation so they can stay in school,” Reque-Peterson said.

More than 570 people who saw the Facebook page for the 5K for Mental Health Awareness indicated on social media they were interested in the event, as of Thursday afternoon, with almost 80 responding they were going to the event.

“We were very unexpectedly — and happily — we've had so many participants. We had no idea we’d get so many. … We had no idea what to expect in terms of participants,” Reque-Peterson said Thursday.

There were more than 100 participants registered for the 5K run/walk and more than 40 registered for the 1-mile walk as of Thursday afternoon, according to Reque-Peterson, with both the 5K run/walk and the 1-mile walk starting at CLC’s south entrance.

“And then for the 5K, you loop around campus and then head down to Kiwanis Park,” she said. “You circle around Boom Lake there … and then the racers will go just a little bit down that East River Road trail. And then they turn back around and go back up towards campus.”

Several local mental health agencies will be at Saturday’s event on the college campus in Brainerd to share information with the public about what they do and hand out information.


“Our main goal is to help raise awareness that there are resources in the community that people can access and to have people know they're not alone,” she said. “And to normalize talking about mental health.”

More than 12 million adults in the United States reported having “serious thoughts” about suicide, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of those affected by mental illness.

“We recognize that mental health is a serious and growing issue in our area,” Reque-Peterson said. “One of the biggest barriers is, I think, people being OK to admit that they might need help or that they have struggles.”

By the numbers

Between 2020 and 2021, calls to the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline about depression and anxiety increased by 80%, calls about suicide increased by 185% and calls about mental health crises increased by 251%.

Overall, the number of people the helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI assisted increased 79% from 2019 to 2021.

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at . Follow him on Twitter at .

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The weekly newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
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