April 1, 2017 5:55 pm
Updated: April 1, 2017 6:12 pm

Western fraternity makes camp in Victoria Park for mental health awareness

Phi Gamma Delta speaks with Londoners at Victoria Park during their 24-hour campout on April 1, 2017.

AM980/Carl Garnich
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A group of students from a Western University fraternity are taking to the outdoors to raise awareness about mental health in the Forest City.

Phi Gamma Delta started the Austen Berlet Campout for Mental Health, a 24-hour campout in Victoria Park, in memory of their lost brother.

Participants were encouraged to camp out in the park for 24 hours starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday, to open up conversations about mental health.

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“In 2009, [Austen] unfortunately took his own life due to his struggles with bi polar disorder,” event co-ordinator Darren Ramcharan said. “[We do this] in his memory and to keep his story alive.”

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According to Ramcharan, around 40 people took part in the campout last year.

Over the last seven years, the fraternity has raised over $70,000 towards the Canadian Mental Health Association and mental health initiatives at Western University.

“I am so happy that the Fiji brothers are continuing to support their fundraising for mental health,” Austen’s mother, Lee Ann Berlet, said in a statement. “Since Austen passed away, so many friends young and older have come to open up about their mental health issues, which is a good start. This event is truly beautiful. Hundreds, if not thousands of people appreciate it and everything it stands for. It’s time for all of us to help each other and to be kind to each other.”

According to Ramcharan, it has a huge impact to hear stories from peers struggling with mental health issues.

“We are actually starting to make a difference on campus,” Ramcharan said.

Attendees will be able to enjoy live music, food and drinks, a raffle, flag football and a late-night movie.

Elgin-Middlesex MP Karen Vecchio and Ward 6 Councillor Phil Squire were scheduled as guest speakers for the campout this year.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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