Photo Credit: Hope Joffray/Achona Online
Mental illness is something incredibly relevant in today’s society, especially in teens. It seems to be something not as openly talked about as other problems and often has a negative stigma attached to it. One out of five teens suffer from mental illness and more than three out of four teens do not seek help. Tampa Bay’s 4th annual Speak-Up 5k in support of the Cameron K. Gallagher Foundation was scheduled to take place Saturday, Oct. 19 at Al Lopez Park. Students at AHN were eager and excited to participate in the uplifting and community-driven event. Unfortunately, due to heavy amounts of rain, the race was canceled, but the storm failed to discourage the Speak-Up 5k Board. An alternative event was held at Glazer Children’s Museum in Downtown Tampa, which resulted in a large attendance and a community of people yearning to alter the negative stigma associated with teens struggling with depression and anxiety.
“The SpeakUp 5k holds a special place in my heart. It is a unique feeling to be carrying out my cousin Cameron’s dream and I know she would have been so proud to see all that has been accomplished. Although a tropical storm came out of nowhere on the weekend of the race, the SpeakUp team did not even think twice about canceling it. Instead, we switched locations to the Glazier Children’s Museum and held a “mental” 5k. The “mental” 5k was modeled after SpeakUp’s mental well-being sessions that they bring to schools in Richmond, Virginia and hopefully soon to schools in the Tampa Bay area. “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor” is a quote that Cameron wrote before she passed away and we truly believed that despite the difficulties we endured, we know that we helped at least one person realize they are not alone,” said Madeleine Gallagher (‘20).
Students from high schools around the Tampa Bay area are involved in the Speak-Up 5k committee. Madeleine Gallagher (‘20), Danielle Duarte (‘20), Lola Accardi (‘21), Julia Talbot (‘22), and Sadie Campbell (‘22) are the Speak-Up 5k Ambassadors that represent AHN. Several events have taken place in support of the event including car washes, a concert, and even a spikeball tournament. The board is incredibly motivated and hardworking in their hopes to eradicate the negative stigma against mental illness. The last minute change was initially upsetting for the committee because of how hard they had worked, but most definitely did not put a damper on the overall positive essence of the event.
“I got involved in Speak Up 5K with my sister Lucia this year and I’m so happy that we were given the opportunity. Being an ambassador, I realized how important mental health is and how significant it is to someone’s life to be able to draw awareness to it. So many people I know have struggled with teenage depression and anxiety and don’t have the voice to Speak Up about it. Speak Up 5K is important because it allows teenage depression and anxiety to be talked about. Just talking about it can truly give that person struggling a voice, let them know they are not alone, and give them the help they need. I feel lucky to have been with such great students from all around Tampa, raising money and awareness for this organization. I encourage everyone to come to Speak Up 5K next year,” said Lola Accardi (‘21).
The Speak-Up 5k represents an important cause because it works to normalize the problem in the hopes of preventing self-abuse or more serious mental issues from developing. The means of a 5k allows for the community to come together and work towards a common goal, spreading positive words and encouragement to everyone that attends. Not only does the Speak-Up 5k take place in Tampa Bay, but it also occurs in Richmond, Nashville, San Diego, and Metro DC. Communities around the United States are “speaking up” for those battling with depression or anxiety.
“The Speak-Up 5k spreads a very important message, especially because it sheds light on an issue that is very prevalent today in people our age. We work hard to erase the stigma that is associated with mental illness and help support those with anxiety or depression because you never know what another person is really going through. I am very grateful to be apart of such an uplifting committee,” said Danielle Duarte (‘20).
One component of Speak-Up 5k is the posters with quotes that are placed throughout the race, along with on the t-shirts given to runners and volunteers. Since this year’s Speak-Up was a “mental” 5k, the posters were posted around Glazer Children’s Museum instead of the actual race. They include inspirational words that are meant to encourage runners in the race and keep them smiling. Cameron Gallagher had designed the race to put “fun zones” around the track, which includes water-gun stations, bubbles, or rave zones. The overall feeling of the race is incredibly uplifting and encouraging in support of those struggling with anxiety or depression.