KINGSTON, R.I. — Oct. 22, 2020 — As Americans deal with the continuing spread of COVID-19 and university students contend with social distancing, remote learning and isolation and quarantine, mental health awareness and suicide prevention are more important than ever.
That’s why organizers of the University of Rhode Island’s 12th annual Be5K Walk/Run for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention have decided to offer the event again this year, albeit virtually, from Sunday, Oct. 25, through Sunday, Oct. 31. Participants will walk or run in their own communities or on URI’s Kingston Campus. The Rhody Run 5K course can be found here.
Participants can register at the raceentry page, and they are urged to share photos and messages on social media (@URIBe5K on Facebook) or tag the event at #2020URIBe5K. The cost to register is $5. All those who raise at least $15 will be eligible for a Be 5K T-shirt.
“This year, perhaps more so than in years past, it is integral for us to come together in community around mental health awareness and suicide prevention,” said Amy Albert, coordinator of community engagement at URI’s Center for Career and Experiential Learning.
“We know that this pandemic has been and continues to be challenging for everyone. Through this continually changing experience, mental health is incredibly important, and sharing what resources are available on- and off-campus is integral,” Albert said.
“Although we will not be together in-person throughout the Be5K virtual week, we hope to create a virtual community via social media in which mental health resources and stories of connection are shared. We also encourage participants to walk/run safely with their family members, roommates, and those in their communities, following all Rhode Island Department of Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. We appreciate everyone in the broader URI community that is an advocate for mental health awareness and suicide prevention.”
Proceeds raised by the event go to the Heather Fund, a URI Foundation & Alumni Engagement fund established to support mental health programs for students. As in past years, URI student groups focused on mental health promotion will participate, as well as those from URI’s Counseling Center, Health Services, College of Nursing, Campus Recreation, Center for Career and Experiential Education, and URI Psychological Consultation Center.
The Heather Fund was established by Roger Vennewald and his wife, Josephine, in 1996, on behalf of their daughter, Heather, a URI student, who they lost to suicide. Members of the Vennewald family have been longtime participants and supporters of the Be5K.
The event is called the Be5K because it urges participants and the URI community to be compassionate, loving, hopeful, aware, present, happy and to be themselves to build a healthier community. It is the oldest community outreach event on campus dedicated to mental health promotion and suicide prevention.
The CDC and the National Institutes of Health said that suicide is among the leading causes of death in the nation and that the problem has become even more critical during the pandemic. It is the second leading cause of death among college students. Mental health conditions are often seen as the cause of suicide, but the CDC adds that many people who die by suicide are not known to have a diagnosed mental health condition at the time of death. Other problems often contribute to suicide, such as those related to relationships, substance use, physical health, and job, money, legal, or housing stress.