Merrickville Councilllor Chuck MacInnis welcoming Canal Pursuit for Mental Health relay runners Clay Williams, Bob Joynt and Lori Bates when they arrived in Merrickville on Friday.

A relay raising money for mental health programs in Canada made a stop in Mer- rickville on Friday, one of 88 stops in the 785km route from Port Severn, Ontario to Ottawa.

The Canal Pursuit for Mental Health to Defeat Depression was founded four years ago by ultra-marathon runner Clay Williams. In the first two years of the event, Clay ran the entire 785kms by himself, running nearly 100km each day. In 2017 he realized that, like mental illness, the race would be easier if he reached out for help, and it became a relay with 40 runners.

Each participant runs different lengths along the route that follows the Trent-Severn Canal from Port Severn to Trenton, and then the Rideau Canal from Kingston to Ottawa. There are scheduled stops along the route at each of the 88 locks, and runners meet with local first responders, sports clubs, community groups, health groups, and media to raise awareness about depression.

“The conversation that we want to promote with this project is two-fold,” Clay says. “First, if you’re struggling with a mood disorder, talk to someone you trust. The second part of the message is that physical activity can help make symptoms of mood disorders more manageable, fitting in with the national Defeat Depression campaign.”

Clay runs in honour of his wife, his daughter, and his sister, all of whom suffer from mood disorders, and in memory of his two older brothers who took their own lives. Many of the runners joining him this year also have personal stories of how mental illness has affected them and their loved ones.

Funds raised by the Canal Pursuit for Mental Health support the national programs of the Mood Disorders Society of Canada (MDSC), such as the national Defeat Depression campaign, with helps fund local mental health programs in communi- ties across the country.

“The Mood Disorders Society of Canada is very proud to support Clay Williams on this physically challenging campaign that exemplifies one man’s passion to make a difference,” says Dave Gallston, the National Director of MDSC. “So, too, should we all stop and realize that mental illness affects us all, and we all need to come together and support change within mental health in Canada.”

The flag was passed on to the next runner in Merrickville on Friday evening. Councillor Chuck MacInnis was on hand on Friday to witness the flag exchange and support the initiative as they passed through Merrickville. The run ended on Saturday, August 25, at the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill.

To donate to the cause you can visit the Canal Pursuit’s website at CanalPursuit.DefeatDepression.ca, or mail a cheque to the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, noting Canal Pursuit on the memo portion of the cheque. “We all have an important role to play in removing the stigma around mental illness, so that people can feel comfortable reaching out to seek treatment,” Clay says.

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