Utah nonprofit organizes Virtual 5K to inspire further mental health conversations

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Normalizing the conversation about mental health, that’s the goal of Room Here, a nonprofit organization that champions mental fitness.

According to Mental Health America, across the country, Utah ranks 48 out of 51 for a higher prevalence of mental illness and lower rates of access to care, in addition, Utah had the 5th highest rate of suicides in 2019. With the effects of COVID-19 and isolation due to social distancing, the topic of mental health is even more crucial.

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With May being Mental Health Awareness month and in efforts to let the community know there are organizations willing to lend an ear and put them connect with the professionals who can help, Room Here will hold a virtual 5K from Friday, May 29th through Sunday, May 31.

“Mental fitness applies to everyone, and it’s not just mental health it involves our whole body being active” said Trent Mano, co-founder of Room Here. With the current health department guidelines, it only seems appropriate to spread Mental Health awareness with a virtual race.

Those wanting to participate in the race can do so from anywhere they chose on any of the above-mentioned dates. Individuals can register to race on the organization’s website. Once registered, the person receives a link via email to download and print a race bib. Participants will need to submit their results by Sunday, May 31, at 11:59 p.m.

Though the race will be “virtual” Room Here still wanted to create an event to give participants the same race experience they would feel as if it were an in-person 5k meet. “We wanted to do it a way where people can run it on their own time throughout the weekend where they want whether they’re at a gym, at home on a treadmill or outdoors” says Rachel Merrill, co-founder of Room Here.

Racers will have a chance to share their results that they’re tracked on an app of their choice and upload how they did after completion of the race on the provided portal where a display will show a leaderboard with all the participants who ran in the virtual 5k together and their results just as a normal race would. Merrill says, “hopefully it’s a way to bring together the community, and get people moving, as well as start the conversation of what people are making room for in their life in regards to health and mental fitness. The race bibs that participants will receive have a spot where individuals can write in “what they make room for” as a way to encourage making time for mental fitness in their lives.

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Room Here believes the body and the mind are very connected “getting people up and moving and working with different areas of their lives will better help them build and maintain good mental health” said Rachel Merrill.

Aside from the Virtual race, Room Here has plans for more events in coming months to further the mental health conversation. The organization also has plans to launch a pledge initiative to help businesses implement a mental health plan in the workplace for employees where thy can pledge as allies for mental health.

Trent Mano of Room Here said, “once we start to open up about mental health and make the connection with those who might be struggling with depression, burnout or other feelings related to mental health, then that’s where the healing starts.”

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Many individuals have people in their very own network that can be some of the best resources for help or connection to someone willing to lend for those mental health discussions.

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Tracy Smith
Curtis Booker, joined the ABC4 family in January of 2019 as a Digital Content Producer. In May of 2019, he transitioned into learning the inner workings of becoming a news producer assisting with various shows. Curtis most recently rejoined the Digital team as a multi-media journalist in February of 2020.

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