Still I Run: Local organization hopes to pull people from depression, anxiety

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Mental health is one of those issues that never leaves the national spotlight. How could it when it impacts one in five Americans at some point in their lifetimes?

Instead of simply rallying behind the cause, Sasha Wolff of Grand Rapids is lacing up her shoes to run for mental health while creating the organization Still I Run.

Sasha Wolff running

Sasha Wolff running

If you've ever felt run down, it turns out that running might be your best bet. In fact, research shows exercising reduces anxiety and improves mood.

Wolff says it worked for her. In fact, she has ran 27 races this year alone.

"I think I did two marathons this year: one last year, and I started off with 5Ks," Wolff said. "Sometimes the biggest barrier to starting something new is just knowing what to do."

Wolff knows from experience. Four years ago, this athlete wasn't running at all. Quite the opposite. Wolff was suffering with depression. A few years later, anxiety started to creep in, and she felt beat up and run down.

"I didn’t really do anything with that diagnosis for couple years. I just wanted to ignore it. I didn’t want to admit that there was something wrong with me, because that’s what everybody says to people with depression or anxiety."

Wolff spent her days locked in her room as a burden of shame clouded her head. When she was in the depths of her depression, she could barely manage to strap on her shoes.

Running out of options, Wolff decided to simply run. She registered for her first marathon in 2015.

"All it takes really is 30 minutes of walking or running, and you start to feel the mental health benefits immediately," Wolff said.

That's why she created Still I Run, a community helping others combat depression and anxiety through running, stripping the stigma that surrounds mental health.

She's an athlete, showing others that running from mental health is not the answer. Rather, run towards it. Only then will progress come.

"I think it’s so paramount for my mental health, and I know it’s going to be important for other people as well."

If you want to get involved with Still I Run, the organization has an Instagram, Facebook and website where you'll find inspirational stories from people overcoming a mental health illness.

Sasha also has a shop on Etsy, where she sells mental health awareness running shirts. Twenty percent of every sale goes towards Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services Patient Assistance Fund.

Wolff hopes in 2017 to organize several running groups to meet at local parks and, of course, run. This May, she is planning to have a running challenge, so be on the lookout for that.

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