Run as One 5k photo

Runners participate in last year's race.

The Burke County Health Department, Blue Ridge Health Care and Partners Behavioral Health Management will present their second annual “Run as One” 5k run and walk at 8 a.m. on Saturday at the Catawba Meadows greenway. The goal of the event is to raise mental health awareness.

“As community health care providers, these entities have worked closely over the years to enhance the care that is available in our community,” said Carol Ervin, director of nursing for the inpatient behavioral health unit at Carolinas Health Care System Blue Ridge. “This effort was tied to the results of the Health Department’s Community Health Needs Assessment of 2016, which identified mental illness as one of the top three health concerns in Burke County. The hospital, like many others across the state, was experiencing high volumes of patients seeking mental health care. Partners Behavioral Health focuses on community collaboratives to spread education to providers and consumers. Collectively, our goals are the same: doing what we can to improve the issues and barriers surrounding mental health care in Burke County.”

Last year, the groups decided to organize a 5k event as part of Mental Health Awareness Month, which takes place in May.

“The event was so successful and so much fun, we decided to repeat it this year,” Ervin said. “We called the 5k‘Run as One,’ symbolizing the 1 in 5 American adults that suffer with mental illness and promoting an opportunity to pull together as one supportive community. Hosting a 5k gives people the opportunity to speak up and talk about mental illness. Talking about it is the first step in increasing awareness and breaking down barriers. Education and resource material will be available for all that attend.”

Cost to enter the race is $20, which includes a T-shirt, awards, post-race refreshments and a finisher celebration. People can sign up the morning of the race.

“While any money raised by the 5k will be utilized for continued awareness activities and personal needs of community members with mental illness, fund raising is not the intent of this event,” Ervin said. “Our primary goal is to promote awareness in the community and, in doing so, reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.”

Professional chip timing will be provided at the race by Running Toes Inc.

“The top three male and female winners in each age group will receive medals,” Ervin said. “Medals will also be awarded to the top three male and female runners with the best time overall. Everyone present will be eligible to sign up for door prizes the day of the event.”

Competition categories are as follows:

» 14 and under

» 15-19

» 20-29

» 30-39

» 40-49

» 50-59

» 60-69

» 70-79

» 80 -plus

At the finisher celebration, the winners in each category will receive their medals and have their photos taken.

Funds raised at the race will “support and promote mental health awareness efforts (in) May of each year and additionally provide basic necessities for individuals in the community struggling with mental illness.”

Ervin encouraged people to come out and run for a good cause.

“A lot of the time, people don’t know how or what they can do to support those with mental illness,” she said. “We believe that support begins with just showing up. This event provides an opportunity to learn more about and acknowledge the challenges of those in our community struggling with mental illness. Even if you don’t walk or run, we encourage you to come on out and visit the displays, gather information and chat with health care providers from our community.”

Staff writer Tammie Gercken can be reached at tgercken@morganton.com.

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