I Will Listen flyer

The Behavioral Sciences Association will host the first I Will Listen 5K at 9 a.m. April 13 to raise awareness for mental health issues and support the I Will Listen campaign.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness created the I Will Listen campaign to encourage friends and families of those with mental illnesses to listen and support without judgment, according to the I Will Listen website.

The No-Headphones 5K encourages runners and walkers to interact with volunteers and each other to start open dialogues about mental health.

BSA President senior Lauren Buck said BSA hosted an I Will Listen event her freshman year with speakers and bands, and the group was hoping to create a similar event with the 5K.

“The event was a big hit, and since then, we have always wanted to do another event but kept pushing it off,” Buck said. “We all really love the I Will Listen campaign and the message along with it: listen to those around you. This is a great campaign to promote and bring awareness to.”

The 5K will start and end at Raymond J. Courter Park, looping around campus and concluding at a village featuring booths hosted by sponsors and student organizations including Helping Everyone Regardless of Orientation, To Write Love on Her Arms and Sigma Society.

Along the race path, signs will be posted to inform runners about mental health and wellness.

“Our goal for this event is for people to have fun and learn more about mental health and wellness,” Buck said. “We want to bring awareness to how much society should talk to one another and not be afraid to seek help for mental health or talk about it.”

BSA Vice President senior Kiersten Johnson said the best part about planning the 5K has been networking with sponsors and student organizations.

“I have been at Northwest for almost 5 years, and I’ve heard a lot of names but I have never had an opportunity to meet them,” Johnson said. “Those I have met have been really great people. I love being thrown into situations where I can talk to new people, share stories about the BSA and connect with other students as well.”

Johnson said the biggest challenges have come from the logistics of this being the first 5K BSA has hosted.

“We have certain things we need to make sure are done, but the order in which we do them gets confusing,” Johnson said. “For example, we need to get donations from Hy-Vee, but they need to know how many people we are going to have register before donating. There are just things that are hard to get done when they rely on other things as well.”

With all executive members and many other members graduating this semester or in the fall, Johnson said she is looking forward to seeing how many people participate in the 5K and whether the event will boost membership.

“The BSA had a few semesters in the past where we weren’t doing as much as we should have been, and that cost our memberships,” Johnson said. “We are pretty low on attendance to meetings now, but we are doing everything we can to make sure as many people as possible know about this event and feel included in participating.”

Buck said students, staff, faculty and community members should participate in the 5K or volunteer to help run it because everyone knows someone who needs support in their mental health journey.

“Everyone needs a shoulder to lean on, but people are scared to talk about it or get help,” Buck said. “We are doing this event to help encourage and support people to reach out to their friends, family or even strangers to check up on them and to help one another.”

Registration for the event is $10, which includes a free T-shirt, water and snacks. All proceeds will be donated to the I Will Listen campaign, which will help NAMI educate and advocate for individuals and families who are impacted by mental illnesses, according to the 5K registration page.

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