Written by: Katie Shatusky (Founder and President of Thumbs Up High 5K)
In November of 2010, I lost my grandfather to suicide. It was a devastating loss for our family. I had also struggled with my own mental health issues of depression and anxiety. I began running in 2012 to help combat these issues. I realized how much it was helping me feel better, but I still wasn’t able to “kick” the feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and thoughts of suicide. So I went to my doctor who prescribed medication and regular counseling therapy. I thought that running alone would help me, but I felt too proud to be on medication. Now that I am at a good place with my mental health, I wish I wouldn’t have resisted it for so long. I think that is part of the stigma associated with mental health. After some time of grieving and healing, I knew that I wanted to do something to help others who struggle with mental health disorders, I just didn’t know what.
For Valentine’s Day 2013, my husband Todd got me one of the most thoughtful gifts. He drove down to St. Paul and met up with the author of the book called “Silent Impact”, Joe Schmit. (also a well-known Sportscaster from KSTP Channel 5 News) Joe’s book, “Silent Impact”, tells stories of influence, through purpose, persistence, and passion. Joe’s book really filled a void for me and it also lit a fire! In one of the last chapters of the book, (The Second Thank You, page 105) Joe tells a story about a boy named Sam Richter and a girl named Kristin. Kristin had been the victim of bullying; Sam was a star athlete who eventually played NCAA Division I Football. Sam stood up for Kristin during a bullying incident in school and Kristin never forgot about it. Kristin wrote Sam a thank you letter twenty-three years after graduating from High School. Her letter reminded Sam of the bullying incident in which he stood up for her, and that he saved her life. She said that she was at the lowest point in her life that day and she was going to go home, take a bunch of sleeping pills, and hope to never wake up. She was ready to do anything to stop the pain. Sam saved Kristin’s life that day by standing up for her, a complete stranger. He simply stood up to a bully and saved a life. If that’s not impactful, I don’t know what is?
Not everyone thinks of depression or anxiety as a disease, and that is something I am hoping to change. I want people to know that they are not alone and that depression is not something to be ashamed of. I have depression and I’m proud of it! For me, depression isn’t something I hide. My husband, children, and family know about it, my friends know about it. The more people you can talk to about your depression, the better.
After reading Joe Schmit’s Book “Silent Impact” – I knew what I needed to do. In June of 2014, I formed a committee with my friend Jessica Hackenmueller (Co-Founder) and Thumbs Up High 5K was born. This event is a 5K and 10K run, walk, bike and blade event supporting mental health and suicide prevention. The event is family-friendly including a kids SUPER HERO obstacle course, bounce houses, trampoline bungee, face-painting, crazy hair & more! What this event has shown me and taught me is how amazing our community is and how rewarding it can be to give back as a business owner. There is so much good here! The amount of support that our family has been shown absolutely blows my mind. Each year is very humbling and surreal for me, but more importantly, it is a day for people to mourn the loss of loved ones who died by suicide, it is a day to celebrate their lives, and it is a day to come together as a community, as neighbors, strangers, friends, and people from afar to help support others who struggle with mental health disorders.
Please continue to spread awareness and talk about depression and the signs of suicide. Please visit our website for more information or ways to get help for yourself or for someone you love. #KeepMovingForward
Katie Shatusky is also the owner of KTBUG Photo & Design in Elk River, MN.