Airdrie’s Mike Loughman is embarking on an extraordinary journey called “Mike Marches Again for Mental Health,” during which he will walk from Edmonton to Airdrie next week with a five-pound weight chain-wrapped around his ankle.
According to Loughman, the five-pound ball-and-chain has a smiley face on it, but is intended as a symbol for the weight and burden of carrying a mental health struggle, emphasizing the importance of addressing and supporting these challenges.
"I want to get it done, I want to raise awareness, I want to inspire other people to do things like this, more open about mental health and addiction struggles," he said.
Loughman drew inspiration from a local artist he met during a fundraiser in 2016. The artist explained how the ball and chain symbolize mental health struggles, which stay with and affect you, even though you have to act like it's not there.
The main purpose of Loughman's walk is to raise funds for the Sober Friends Society, an organization he founded, and to support the Mood Disorder Society of Canada.
His efforts have already garnered significant attention in the local community, with people expressing their support and even asking if they can join him for parts of the nearly 300-kilometre walk.
Loughman is thrilled by the outpouring of solidarity, which motivates him as he gets ready for this journey.
“We have several other people that want to walk with us,” Loughman said. “Mostly when we get to Crossfield, that’s where a lot of people are going to meet us.”
In 2018, Loughman received the Lieutenant Governor's Circle on Mental Health and Addiction's True Grit Award in Edmonton for his outstanding commitment to making a difference in changing the conversation around mental health and addiction.
The Sober Friends Society is particularly important to Loughman, as it reflects his personal journey of sobriety and recovery. The society aims to provide support, resources, and a sense of community for individuals struggling with addiction.
One out of every five Canadians faces mental health challenges, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association. The funds generated from Mike Marches Again for Mental Health will enhance the organization's capacity to support individuals in need.
“I’m going to walk from Edmonton to Airdrie to represent my journey of sobriety and my accomplishments and how far I’ve come one day at a time. Sometimes it’s one inch at a time. It’s not easy,” Loughman said.
Loughman's efforts will also benefit the Mood Disorder Society of Canada, an organization dedicated to promoting mental health and supporting individuals with mental illness.
Walking almost 30 kilometres a day for two weeks starting Aug. 13, Loughman aims to inspire others to confront the ongoing stigma surrounding mental health and addiction. His journey serves as a call to action, encouraging communities to unite, offer support, and foster understanding.
Loughman's ultimate goal is to create an environment where individuals feel comfortable discussing their own mental health struggles, seeking help, and finding hope on their own paths to recovery.
“If we are vocal and we talk about it, it reduces the shame and embarrassment and stigmas associated with it,” he said.
For those interested in supporting Loughman's walk and making donations, they can visit mikesmarch.defeatdepression.ca/