This Saturday (May 14), Surrey will be a first-time host of a Sashbear Walk, a charity event that aims to raise awareness and funds for the expansion of free mental health and suicide-prevention programs.
The Sashbear Walk has been held in Toronto since 2013, in honour of Sasha Menu Courey.
“At our last in-person walk in 2019, we had over 600 participants,” event co-ordinator Marlene Yip noted.
“Our Sashbear Walk is coast-to-coast this year and Surrey is the first to kick it all off. We’re expecting approximately 75 people at our first walk in Surrey.”
Lynn Courey, Sashbear Walk co-founder and president, will host the inaugural event in Surrey, with local politicians and others invited to support the cause.
The Sashbear Foundation, which offers free support to families who have loved ones with mental health issues, was launched following the 2011 suicide death of Courey’s daughter, Sasha Menu Courey, who lost her battle to Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) at age 20.
“Although she was a scholarship athlete and a gifted student with a promising future, the pain associated with the disorder was too great and the system failed to support her needs,” says a post on the foundation’s website.
“Sasha struggled to understand why the treatment that was ‘air to breathe’ was so expensive and difficult to locate.”
One in four Canadians are affected by mental health challenges, according to Canadian Mental Health Association, and one to two per cent of the general population has BPD.
“Yet, finding support and treatment is extremely challenging because therapists have long waitlists, are expensive, and most often located only in large urban areas,” Sashbear Foundation officials say.
“Awareness is especially important given that COVID-19 has severely impacted youth mental health. In fact, the emergency department at BC Children’s Hospital reported an 11-per cent increase in youth arriving for mental health treatment since the start of the pandemic.”
Proceeds from Sashbear Walks “directly support Sashbear’s evidence-based Family Connections program and Expert Education Webinars which are provided at no cost to participants,” the organization says.
Across Canada this spring, Sashbear Walk events will also be held in Toronto, Daveluyville, QC, Edmonton and St. John’s, NL.