A local nurse is running 50-kilometres from Langley City to Vancouver on World Mental Health Day to raise awareness about the overdose crisis during the pandemic.
“I’ve been working with the overdose crisis since 2016, since the emergency was declared,” said Sheila Henry. “It changed my life.”
The Walnut Grove resident said it was the number of deaths related to illicit drug overdoses reported by the BC Coroners Service in recent months that led her on this path.
“It was really profound to me, it struck me,” the 41-year-old said as she fought back tears.
In the first eight months of 2020, the province has already surpassed last year’s total of illicit drug overdose deaths, according to data released by the BC Coroners Service.
Just shy of 150 people fatally overdosed in August, or roughly nine people every two days, bringing the total since January to 1,068 deaths, the data indicates.
“I wanted to do something that garnered attention, something I could be proud of and something not a lot of people do,” Henry said about deciding to run the marathon.
“I really like what they’re about… it really fits with how I feel about so many things in regards to the overdose crisis, and health, and how public health can have a role and take action,” Henry explained about donating to the foundation.
“A lot of people conflate addiction and the overdoes crisis with homelessness or poverty, which isn’t actually the big picture – it is part of it,” she explained.
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The BCCDC Foundation for Public Health speaks my language! That is why I chose this non-profit organization to be the benefactor of my fundraiser. I support the Reducing Harms Priority because all people matter and investing in health equity makes sense. The Foundation's Activate Health initiative is their "battle cry" for individuals to take action on how we see, think about, and engage with our own health. Check out their Instagram @bccdcfoundation or website for tons of awesome info #bccdcfoundation #activatehealth #mentalhealthawareness #kindness #overdoseawareness #stopthestigma #languagematters #healthequity #healthpromotion #selfcare #runningformentalhealth #vancouver
Henry will begin her marathon at Innes Corner Plaza in Langley City (20399 Fraser Hwy.) at 8 a.m. Saturday, making stops in Surrey, New Westminster and Burnaby before reaching Strathcona Park in Vancouver (857 Malkin Ave.) before 4 p.m. – she hopes.
“I’m excited. It’s been so emotional the last couple of weeks since I’ve launched my fundraiser online. I’ve cried so much in appreciation… it’s been so beautiful,” she said ahead of the big day.
But Henry said she is new to running and it’s her boyfriend Jamie Cross, 48, who is the athlete.
In July the pair started training for Henry’s marathon.
“Everything I’ve ever done for running has been for myself… watching her do this challenge has nothing to do with herself,” Cross noted about Henry’s compassion and selflessness.
“I’m a completely different man because of the way she loves,” he said.
The BCCDC Foundation for Public Health aims to raise $30,000 before the end of the year to support programs across the province that are working to combat the overdose crisis, according to Kristy Kerr, executive director of the foundation.
“Not only is [Shelia] raising awareness… she’s helping us reach our target,” Kerr said.
Henry, a single mom, said she and her family have also personally struggled with mental health.
“I have two intelligent, beautiful, amazing, adult daughters… My eldest daughter, Kisa, fought depression and self-harm tendencies from a young age and she was eventually diagnosed with bipolar mood disorder,” Henry noted on her fundraising page.
“My youngest daughter, Tayla, had difficulties with anxiety and at 13 had a brain hemorrhage and required an emergency life saving craniotomy. Afterwards, she needed rehabilitation therapy for a year and had the added challenge of depression.”
“My daughters are going to be my crew [on Saturday],” Henry said.
To learn more about Henry’s campaign or to donate visit www.canadahelps.org/en/pages/50-k-run-to-raise-awareness.
For updates on her marathon visit her Instagram page at www.instagram.com/livingthishumanlife.