8 Mental Health Awareness Charity Walks and Runs

Exuberant male marathon runner crossing finish line with arms raised
Hero Images / Getty Images

Running and walking are great ways to alleviate depression, relieve stress, and lower blood pressure. So it makes sense that around the world, many mental health charities organize walks and runs to build a sense of community and promote exercise while also raising money for mental health initiatives.

Whether you're running your first 5K or you're a seasoned runner, here are 10 ways to get involved in a mental health awareness walk or run near you.



The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) organizes NAMIWalks in more than 100 cities across the United States every year. Nearly 25,000 participants have laced up to raise close to $8 million as well as awareness for the treatment of mental illnesses. Walkers can register online to raise donations to support their walk, participating as individuals, joining a team, or creating a new team. Leashed dogs are allowed to join you on the course, too. While registration is free, fundraising is encouraged.


Out of the Darkness Walks

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention organizes walks in all 50 states to help fund research, support survivors, promote education, and champion for policy change. More than 250,000 people participate in the walks, which average at three miles. If you signed up solo, look for the designated space for walkers to meet and get to know each other so no one walks alone.


Five Fifty Fifty Run/Walk Series

Started by Dr. Adel B. Korkor, the Five Fifty Fifty 5K series takes place in all 50 states across 50 days with a mission to increase awareness, conversation, and action around mental health. Money raised from the series benefits his AB Korkor Foundation, which helps fund research, fill the gaps in affordable mental health care, and prioritizes minorities, veterans, and those coping with addiction. They also host a virtual 5K for World Mental Health Day each October where you run at your own location individually or with friends and family.


The Walk for Mental Health Awareness

The Walk for Mental Health Awareness in Houston hosts an annual 5K that's garnered nearly $200,000 for various mental health organizations in the greater Houston area, like the Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America. Rather than having a traditional finish line, the 5K walk/run ends with an "Arch of Breakthrough" to commemorate achievements in recovery. Leashed dogs are welcome to join the course, and there's a Children's Corner with information about youth mental illnesses.


MOM Race

Named in honor of their mother who committed suicide after years of battling schizophrenia, the Mind Over Matter (MOM) 5K in Royal Oak, Michigan was founded in 2006 to bring awareness to suicide prevention and mental health. Beyond a chance to run or walk the 3.1-mile flat course, the annual event includes raffle prizes, refreshments, live music, and a post-race party. The organization has raised more than $350,000 for brain research and crisis intervention programs.


JWB Resiliency 5K & 1-Mile Family Fun Run/Walk

This race, hosted by the John. W. Brick Mental Health Foundation and held at the Maryland State Fairgrounds, includes giveaways, a kids' zone, and an awards ceremony. All money raised from the event benefits research into how holistic options, like exercise and healthy eating, can support mental health.


Walk for Hope

"Small steps. Huge Strides." That's the motto behind the Foundation for Hope's flagship event, held annually for more than 30 years in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. They host a 5K as well as a 1-mile family fun run, raising money for research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Department of Psychiatry to better understand the root causes of mental illness and working to erase the stigma surrounding it. If you're not up for the physical activity, you can buy a ticket for their day-long festival, which includes music, food, games, and prizes.


Mental Health Advocacy Capital Walk

Take in sights of Washington D.C.'s most famous landmarks during the Mental Health Advocacy Capital Walk that supports mental health awareness specifically related to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and benefits the International OCD Foundation. You can walk the 1.7-mile loop individually, with friends, or create a team. After the race, meet leaders from various mental health nonprofits and learn about the resources they provide.

Find a Local or Virtual Race

Don't feel discouraged if you don't live near a large nationwide race. Use it as an opportunity to find a smaller local 5K or walk in support of mental health awareness in your area. You might even consider joining a virtual race or making a trip out of signing up for a larger race in a destination you've always wanted to visit.

Raise Funds for Still I Run

If you've already signed up for a race but are looking for a charity to raise funds for, Still I Run could be a fit. The organization is on a mission to change the stereotypes surrounding mental illness, build community, and motivate those living with depression, anxiety, and other disorders to cope through exercise. By raising money for the organization, you'll be contributing to their outreach program, which includes group fun runs around the country from California to Maryland.

By Arlin Cuncic, MA
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." She has a Master's degree in psychology.