Shining the Light of Hope: What You Didn’t Know About Climb Out of the Darkness
Blog submitted by: Jennifer Cordeau, PHA Treasurer 2018
You’ve been hearing a lot from PHA about Climb Out of the Darkness which takes place all over the world on Saturday, June 23. But did you know why it was started, how the first Climb began in San Diego, or how Postpartum Support International is helping this event soar? We were fortunate enough to talk to two of this year’s Climb Out of the Darkness San Diego organizers, Julie Lopez, attorney-at-law and PSI Board Member Dr. Daniel Singley to get some of these questions answered for you, so read on!
Q: Can you provide a brief history of how and why the Climb was created?
Julie Lopez: The Climb was born out of an idea that a woman named Deborah Fordham Rimmler had—who is a postpartum depression survivor (she’s also an attorney, and personal hero of mine who I consider to be “the mother” of the Climb). She recognized that a lot of new parents weren’t able or weren’t comfortable reaching out for treatment of postpartum and perinatal mood disorders due to the stigma attached to those disorders, and she wanted to find a way to raise awareness about how prevalent and treatable these conditions are so that more people could get the help they needed. So, the Climb was created as an event to raise awareness to take place on the longest day of the year—the day with the most light—to help “shine light” on this issue. The Climb grew steadily over the years, and today it is an international event with over 95,000 Climbs conducted.
Q: What about the first San Diego Climb?
Julie Lopez: The first San Diego Climb (that I’m aware of at least) was in 2015. It was organized by one brave San Diego mama, Jessica Huerta, who was still fighting her battle with postpartum depression (PPD) but wanted to do something to help others struggling like her. It was a small Climb with about 12 people in attendance and I think only 1 or 2 kids, and we hiked down to the beach and shared our stories. It was a beautiful event, but a bit somber for the parents who were still in the midst of their battle with mental illness. In 2016, I thought it would be fun to make the Climb a more uplifting event that would be welcoming to the whole family, so I organized the Climb with Jessica’s help. We expanded it to be a fun family day with kids’ music, yoga, the guy who does the huge bubbles at the beaches came, food, drinks, and a raffle with a ton of prizes that we got donated from local businesses. I was lucky to stumble across Jen Varela’s path that year, who donated a raffle prize and did a lot in helping to spread the word about the 2016 Climb. We had about 70 people at the Climb that year, so it felt like a big success! This year, Jen Varela, Danny Singley and I are all working together to plan the Climb, and we have Shelby Peterson—who is the current Mrs. California and PPD survivor whose platform is maternal mental health awareness—helping us advertise and do podcasts using her crown appeal. 😉 Having the local organization, PHA, and the international organization, PSI, working together to put on the event this year has been great because we’ve been able to do outreach and advertise the event—while raising awareness at the same time—on a much broader scale.
Q: Why do you think this event is so important?
Julie Lopez: I think the event is really powerful in two ways: (1) it helps those who are struggling to heal, and (2) sends a message to the world that perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) are common, treatable, and nothing to be ashamed of—which in turn helps people who are currently struggling to find the strength to reach out for help. I know that attending the 2015 Climb was a big turning point in my own recovery, because I saw with my own eyes other moms who were going through the same thing I went through. Often, we think that we did something wrong or caused our illness and seeing so many other people going through the same thing really helps you to understand that there is nobody to blame for mental health issues. And it’s a tremendously supportive environment. Jen Varela shared the best quote about the Climb: “You don’t have to go through it alone, we stand with you. If hope is hard to hold on to, come be with us and we will hold the hope for you.” That’s the Climb.
Q: Can you share how PSI became the organization overseeing the Climb?
Dr. Singley: The Climb was originally developed by Postpartum Progress, and Warrior Moms would organize local Climbs to get people together and fight stigma as well as provide support and funds to support the fight against PMADs. After Postpartum Progress shut down, PSI agreed to continue this phenomenal tradition, and even went so far as to develop a paid position working closely with PSI’s Board to really give the Climb the wings it deserves!
Q: What is the overall fundraising goal this year and how will the funds raised be distributed?
Dr. Singley: The initial goal was $100k based on the last few years, and we also have goals around more people climbing, partnering more with local organizations, and working to have Climbs in increasingly more countries around the world. In the cases of organizational partnerships tag-teaming on any given Climb event (like PHA is doing this year), 75% of the funds raised go back to the local organization. Funds that go to PSI are used to support our overall mission of bridging moms and dads with the support and resources they need, including half of the funds going to support the Perinatal Action Fund, which is a PSI Committee focusing on supporting traditionally underserved populations.
Q:How does PSI envision growing this event each year?
Dr. Singley: We’re planning to continue to give more public relations attention (traditional as well as social media) and resources to support Climb Leaders, and are of course setting more ambitious goals for participation, organizational partnerships, and fundraising.
Fun Facts about Climb Out of the Darkness Growth from 2017 to 2018:
Money Raised 2017=*$85,000 2018=*$110,000
Number of Participants
Registered 2017=711 2018=1,465
Est. Total 2017=3,000 2018=10,000
Chapters 2017=4 2018=17
Local Program 2017=19 2018=33
*Total raised as of mid-June $30,000
A HUGE thank you again to Julie Lopez and Dr. Daniel Singley for their contributions to this blog. We hope that you’re inspired to join us on Saturday, June 23 at Kate Sessions Park beginning at 9:00 am to climb out of the stigma and darkness associated with perinatal mental illnesses and shine the light on hope, courage, and support. For more information on the San Diego Climb, check out:
Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/climboutsandiego/ and
Register for the event at https://climb-out-2018.causevox.com/team/SanDiegoCOTD