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'Run for a purpose' breaks stigma surrounding mental health, loved ones lost to suicide

Dozens gathered at Raccoon River Park Sunday at an event organized by new Des Moines nonprofi 'No Matter What.'

DES MOINES, Iowa — Caution warning: this article mentions suicide. Help is available by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

A new Des Moines nonprofit is working to break the stigma of mental illness during Mental Health Awareness Month

Caroline Fitzgerald Monson founded No Matter What in March of this year, after she and her family lost her brother, Sean Fitzgerald, to suicide in February.

"The nonprofit started by a saying that my brother said frequently, 'no matter what,'" said Fitzgeral Monson. "The thought behind it is that you are loved no matter what you've done."

The organization hosted their first "Run for a Purpose" 5k on Sunday to help raise awareness for those struggling with mental health issues. Over 100 people registered online, and dozens of participants attended the event held at Racoon River Park in West Des Moines. Supporters heard live music, testimonies from individuals who have lost family members to suicide, and were able to connect with others whose friends or family members struggling with mental health issues.

"We're just excited for all the people who came out... it's an emotional day," said Monson.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death across all age groups in the United States, and the second leading cause for individuals aged 10-34 years old.

According to John Hopkins University, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened many of the risk factors associated with suicide, including; social isolation, economic instability, and feelings of anxiety. 

In a report published by the CDC, a June 2020 survey found that over 40% of adults reported struggling with their mental health during the pandemic. Often times, individuals are afraid to come forward and seek help.

"We want to change [the stigma], and for people to not be ashamed by it," said Fitzgerald Monson.

Fitzgerald Monson's father, Paul Fitzgerald, helped with the planning the "Run for a Purpose" 5k, and the family says they plan to make it an annual event.

"If we can help anybody, even one person, it's worth it," said Fitzgerald.

No Matter What will continue its work this fall through a Mental Health Awareness speaking series in partnership with the Des Moines Public Schools. If you would like to donate to or learn more the nonprofit, you can find more information at https://www.nomatterwhatnonprofit.com/.