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Rita’s Run in Lethbridge raising awareness of mental illness

Rita’s Run raising awareness for mental illness in Lethbridge
A Lethbridge woman is raising funds and awareness for mental health through a run in honour of her sister. Matt Battochio reports.

A Lethbridge fitness centre owner is raising awareness of mental illness in her sister’s honour.

“My sister was the absolute life of the party,” Kinetic Indoor Cycle and Fitness owner Sandra Asuchak said. “She was always kind of the leader of the pack. Very rambunctious, very happy all the time. A beautiful soul.”

Sandra’s sister, Rita Giardetti, battled depression for years and as time wore on, life became increasingly more challenging for her.

“At about age 30, she had just had her second child and she was diagnosed with postpartum depression,” Asuchak said. “She tried to take her own life at one point in 1999 only to be found, by my father actually, in his own home.”

READ MORE: Suicide rates among Canadian women are rising faster than men. It’s unclear why

Giardetti sought help and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder but three years later, lost her battle with mental illness.

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“She needed more help than what we could give to her,” Asuchak said. “That’s kind of the reason I started speaking out about this — is just to let people know it’s OK if you don’t feel well. It’s OK if you feel like you need to talk.”

In her sister’s memory, Asuchak and her staff are starting Rita’s Run. It will be a choice of either a five- or 10-kilometre run to raise awareness of mental illness. Proceeds from the event will go towards the Canadian Mental Health Association and other local organizations.

Since announcing the news on social media three weeks ago, the community support has been tremendous.

“We’ve raised already $10,000 in (business) sponsorships,” Asuchak said. “I am so humbled and so touched by the generosity of the people around me and the people in Lethbridge.”

READ MORE: 8 signs your child may be going through depression

Public registration opens on Feb. 1 and the run is slated to take place on May 5.

When Asuchak pounds the pavement on the big day, her sister will be foremost in her thoughts.

“It’s going to be a hard day for sure, but I am going to have the support of all my friends and family and my Kinetic family and I’m going to be thinking about her,” Asuchak said. “I think about her all the time, but it’s going to be a heavy day, but it’s going to be a great day.”

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If you, or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911. 911 can send immediate help.

The Canadian Association for Suicide PreventionDepression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868  all offer ways for getting help if you, or someone you know, is suffering from mental health issues.