More than 300 people walked around the airport in support of mental health yesterday. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

Light shines on mental health

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Promoting mental well-being was the aim of the annual Sunrise Walk for Wellbeing yesterday.

More than 300 people arrived at the Nelson Golf Club to walk the 6km track around the Nelson Airport at 6am yesterday morning, in support of mental health.

One of the six organisers, Peter DeJong, says it’s a great way to kick off mental health awareness week and more importantly a chance for mental illness to be talked about openly.

“It’s good to have a Nelson activity to bring it to attention, it’s also an opportunity to reflect on mental illness and to destigmatise and normalise it.

It’s important to show that people can share and talk about it.”Really, it’s just another illness, there’s all sorts of illnesses so why should mental illness be any different? It’s about making people more accepting.”

Local musician Bryce Wastney played to the walkers as they arrived back at the Golf Club at sunrise and says the walk is a great event to get conversations going about mental health.

“People accept all other illnesses, sore backs and stuff like that, mental health shouldn’t be any different.”

“You can’t see what’s going on in someone’s head and what people are dealing with, there’s a lot of stories out there.”

Mental health youth advocate Zoe Palmer addressed the crowd and shared her journey with mental illness and spread the same message: why is it treated any different to any other illness?

“People don’t like to talk about mental health, but when we go to a GP and are asked ‘what’s wrong’ we never say ‘nothing’ or ‘I don’t know’.

“Mental illness doesn’t condemn you, much in the same way as tonsillitis isn’t a life-long illness, you can have a bout of depression and that’s ok.”

She also touched on what we have been conditioned to believe is ‘self-care’.

“In a shop the self-care section always contains face-masks, scrubs, chocolates and movies, but none of that stuff makes me feel better when I’m down, I love to swim in the ocean.”

“We should all remember that we all have different things that make us feel better but the most important thing for people supporting others with mental health is to include them.”