Rain and cold temperatures did not stop locals from gathering at Barboursville Park early Saturday morning to race for suicide and mental health awareness.
Oasis Behavioral Health Services organized the You are Loved 5k to bring awareness while also raising funds to support West Virginia Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is currently facing a shortage in funding.
“Suicide is currently the 10th leading cause of death in West Virginia, and unfortunately, the hotline is underfunded,” said April Watkins, a psychologist with Oasis. “They actually have to reroute some of the calls to Columbus because they don’t have enough staff to cover it.”
The hotline provides free and confidential support to callers 24/7 who may be facing distress or in need of prevention and crisis resources.
Oasis is located in Barboursville and has been offering mental health services to the tri-state area for 23 years.
“We are a mental health private practice. We treat individuals who have problems with mood issues, anxiety, substance abuse, any kind of mental health issue,” Watkins said.
After the race, participants warmed up with coffee and hot chocolate while Dr. William B. Webb, director of Oasis Behavioral Health Services, spoke about the need for such resources and the overall purpose of the event.
“It used to be the standard was about 30,000 suicides in this country each year, and over the last few years, that’s jumped up to almost 50,000. That’s a tremendous change,” Webb said. “By next year, the World Health Organization estimates that depression, which is a primary cause of suicide, will be the number one disabling disorder worldwide. So, we’re all here to support something that needs our help.”
During the brief talk, Webb spoke about his experience with helping those affected by mental illness and suicide over the years and how asking someone a question can make the difference.
“If you hear something, say something. Ask people,” Webb said. “Most people are dying for someone to ask them what is going on with them. And a lot of them are willing to just spill the beans and tell you what’s going on with them if you just ask the question.”
Several local mental health support services had tables set up at the event to share the resources available to those in need.
Local businesses donated several door prizes to be given out during the event to show their support.
This is the first year for the You are Loved 5k. Watkins said they hope it will not be the last. 72 racers came out for the event along with a number of cheerers on the sidelines and other volunteers.
Brittany Hively can be contacted at [email protected]