"It could’ve been me."
That’s what Jenn Wittick thought to herself when she heard about the deaths of Lisa Gibson and her two children this summer.
It’s also one of the reasons why Wittick and three friends hosted the Run for Mums Family Walk/Run last week to raise funds and awareness for postpartum depression.
More than 400 people gathered at Kildonan Park for the Sept. 25 event, which raised a staggering $13,724.15 through registration fees, silent auction tickets and donations. The funds will be donated to the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba to help create a 24-hour phone line for anyone affected by postpartum depression.
At last week’s run, two guest speakers shared stories of how they battled the affliction, which Wittick also faced after the birth of her son five years ago.
As well, Sharon Blady, MLA for Kirkfield Park, the area where Gibson resided, spoke about the struggles she had with postpartum depression more than 20 years ago.
"It was so heartfelt. There were people sobbing. It was just so touching," said Wittick. "It was very special. It was such a community feeling. When people start talking about their raw issues and their deep issues, you have a sense of community and a sense of connection to everybody."
Before the family-friendly run began, they released a colourful cloud of balloons to honour the lives lost.
"That was in memory of everybody who has been lost (to) postpartum depression," Wittick said.
"Obviously Lisa Gibson and her two kids were our main focus. We had a moment of silence for them as well."
Like many others, Wittick sees a glimpse of herself reflected in Gibson.
"We have so much in common, me and her. That’s what really scared me," said the East Kildonan woman.
"It definitely could’ve been me. It could’ve been anybody."
For her, the fog of depression didn’t lift for many months after her son’s birth, until she began taking medication.
"I wasn’t myself. I was crying a lot. I didn’t have a lot of breastfeeding support or family support. I was young when I had my son, so none of my friends had kids yet. I was just kind of going through it by myself," Wittick said. "It was overwhelming for me. I had so many expectations before he was born of how it was going to go. I felt like it went the total opposite."
She wanted to help other women in the same situation, as did fellow organizer Brenda Marion-Gerula, also from East Kildonan.
"I was so overwhelmed with all the turnout and all the wonderful feedback at the run. People were coming up to me and saying thank you for running this event and sharing their stories. It was much more than I expected. It’s amazing," said Marion-Gerula, a mother of four.
"There are lots of people asking if it’s going to be an annual event. It’s very possible that it’s going to be. We just have to see who’s on board for putting this on and who wants to volunteer. It’s definitely being talked about already."
Donations can still be made to the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba online at www.mooddisordersmanitoba.ca or by calling 204-942-8715.