Chetwynd’s Stan Fraser is planning to embark on his longest walk yet, from Bella Coola to Winnipeg, to raise awareness for mental health starting May 31.
Fraser celebrated his 65th birthday with friends and family last month, and says his original goal was to walk across Canada when he turned 65 – this will take him roughly halfway.
“If the temptation is there when I get there, it’s to be continued,” said Fraser, a well-known mental advocate for the Peace Region, who’s completed several walks to address the stigma surrounding anxiety and depression.
“The main scope will always be to raise awareness about mental health and the people who suffer in silence, there’s so much stigma that goes along with it,” said Fraser.
Some 2,600 kilometres of Canadian wilderness lies ahead on his path, taking Fraser past Williams Lake, 100 Mile House, Valemount, Jasper, Edmonton, and Saskatoon, before reaching his destination.
“It would also be nice to raise money for the individual towns that I go through, if there’s somebody there that needs help or who’s struggling with depression, maybe we can help them out in some way,” Fraser said.
He added that fundraising to create a dedicated mental health room at the Chetwynd hospital is also one of his goals.
The walk remains a symbolic journey for Fraser, who says addressing the stigma of mental illness can only be done "one step at a time."
“Especially with men, we don’t seem to fare too well in talking about mental health, I really want to bring that forward. We have to start one place, and it never affects just the individual that is suffering, it affects everybody,” said Fraser.
In 2016, Fraser completed a walk from Hudson’s Hope to Fort St. John, to Dawson Creek, and on to Chetwynd, ending the loop during the town’s annual international chainsaw carving championship.
By 2020, Fraser had ventured into the Northern Rockies, completing a walk from Fort Nelson to his hometown of Chetwynd.
Fraser also walked alongside the community and prolific prisoner rights advocate David Milgaard this past October, taking part in Chetwynd’s third annual mental health walk, a 28-kilometre trek from Moberly Lake.
Tom Summer, Alaska Highway News, Local Journalism Initiative. Email Tom at email@example.com