"There's a big stigma around mental health. It was kind of like a big no no, 'don't talk about this, it's sad,'" said Renee Boldut, a Grade 8 student from Citadel Middle School. "A lot of people felt afraid to talk about it or that they might be attacked if they started to talk about their mental health or emotional issues."
Boldut is organizing the walk as part of Child and Youth Mental Health Day, aimed at building awareness about depression, eating disorders suicidal thoughts.
To mark the day, the B.C. government pledged $850,000 in funding to the F.O.R.C.E. (Families Organized for Recognition and Care Equality) Society to support child and youth mental health in British Columbia.
Boldut said the event is an opportunity to help her classmates share their struggles with mental health.
"I have a few friends that suffer from depression and anxiety and it's a daily battle for them just getting out of bed and coming to school," said Boldut who also struggles with anxiety. "I think they just wanted to get the word out that it is a real thing and it is a big issue [and] we are not talking enough about it."
In addition to the community walk, Thursday's event features student speakers and mental health professionals.
"Some people did feel a little scared at first to talk about their mental health problems because it is a big deal to them and they are exposing their vulnerabilities and that can be very scary," said Boldut. "It was a little bit hard at first, but once we got into it, it was easy."
"The reaction has been absolutely wonderful. Everyone in the school today is wearing green in support and I'm really happy that the message is getting out there," said Boldut.
Ultimately, Boldut hopes this event will kick start a conversation that kids can have with their family, friends and teachers.
"Through this event they have a chance to talk about how anxiety or depression affects their daily lives and how big of an impact it really makes."
To hear the full interview with Renee Boldut, listen to the audio labelled Grade 8 student organizes Mental Health Walk