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Fourth annual mental health walk set for Tuesday in Willmar, Minn.

More than 300 people participated in the 2011 Mental Health Walk/Run. This year's 5K is Tuesday, with registration beginning at 4:30 p.m. at the Guri Endresen Shelter at Robbins Island in Willmar and the walk/run starting at 5:30. (Tribune file photo by Gary Miller)

WILLMAR -- Individuals and families who experience mental health disorders may be tempted to run away from the illness.

But on Tuesday, people are invited to run together as a community to create awareness about mental health.

For the fourth straight year, local mental health agencies, clinics, PACT for Families and Kandiyohi County Family Services is sponsoring a 5K walk/run.

The event provides an opportunity to "speak out. Stand up. Take action," said Tabatha Larson, one of three women serving on the publicity committee for the event.

Studies show that one in four Americans will experience a mental health disorder at some time in their lives, said Judy Schultz, another organizer, adding that the top three disorders are anxiety, major depression and substance abuse.

There has also been an increase in the number of military veterans who are returning home from active duty experiencing mental health issues.

More research with young children from birth to 5 years of age shows that children as young as 18 months can be affected by traumatic events and that 35 percent of kids exposed to trauma can have mental health issues, according to Kandiyohi County Family Services

Supervisor Corinne Torkelson.

Walk/run organizer Connie Otto said most people know someone in their family or circle of friends who are touched by mental illness, or experience a mental health disorder themselves.

May is mental health awareness month and activities like the walk/run are designed to help "get the awareness out there," said Otto.

Walking together as a community is a way to show that mental illness can affect people from "all walks of life" and that it "doesn't have to be a secret," she said.

Some people may not seek treatment because they don't understand the illness and are afraid of a negative stigma, Larson said.

Walking together can increase awareness, encourage people to "speak up," learn about preventative actions and get treatment, she said.

Registration for the walk/run begins at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Guri Endresen Shelter at Robbins Island Park in Willmar. The cost is $5, with no charge for children age 6 and under.

The start time is 5:30 p.m.

Between 300 and 500 participants have attended previous 5K walk/runs.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750