Still I Run was founded by Sasha Wolff in 2016, however, the idea for the group came to her a few years earlier. In 2011, she was hospitalized for anxiety and depression and one of the coping mechanisms she learned while getting help was the concept of creating healthy routines and habits. One day, shortly after discharge from the hospital, Sasha put on a very neglected pair of running shoes and decided to go for a short walk. That walk felt so great that she kept doing it on a regular basis and eventually started to go faster and longer. She hasn't stopped running for her mental health since.
Once she discovered the benefits of running for mental health, Sasha wanted to connect with others who do the same thing. Unfortunately, she couldn't find a group anywhere.
She kept searching on and off for a few years before finally deciding to create the group herself. On October 10 (World Mental Health Day) in 2016, Sasha launched a Facebook page and a sub-par (her words!) website thinking only friends and family would be receptive to the idea. The outpouring of support from not only friends and family, but complete strangers prompted Sasha to grow Still I Run into a non-profit charity organization. Still I Run is now a community that is over 17,000 members strong and it continues to grow every day.
Today, Sasha runs Still I Run with the help of a wonderful team comprised of the most amazing volunteers. When she isn't working full-time as a communications professional for Herman Miller Furniture in Zeeland, MI, she is raising her three young children with her husband, Greg. In her "spare" time she runs for her mental health.
About the name
The name "Still I Run" was inspired by the well-known Maya Angelou 1978 poem "Still I rise". If you're unfamiliar with the poem, it's a beautiful and powerful piece about survival, hope, and self-respect from the personal viewpoint of Maya Angelou, a Black woman growing up in the Jim Crow South of the United States. This poem, along with much of Angelou's work is centered around the themes of triumph and celebration of oneself despite a history of oppression, hate, and discrimination. While discrimination against those with mental illness is not comparable to the discrimination the black community faces, Sasha, who personally deals with depression and anxiety, resonated with the idea of rising above.
Mental illness has a long history of discrimination and stigma: people with mental illness were outcasts, denied full participation in society and often labeled as dangerous or criminals. Early "treatments" were borderline torture with exorcisms, enforced malnutrition, isolation and segregation, and folks were often institutionalized into places that resembled prisons with the intent to punish rather than hospitals designed to treat. This discrimination was compounded and much worse for marginalized communities, particularly for Black men, women, and children. The stigma, isolation, and segregation continues today due to systemic discrimination: weaponizing mental illness as cause for mistreatment, using mental illness to describe violent or aggressive behavior, and a general assumption that mental illness is not a real illness.
In 2011, when Sasha discovered running helped her cope with mental illness, she realized at the same time that she is stronger than she thinks. Running is hard, and being able to run on the days when depression and anxiety hits hardest made her feel like she was rising above. Running grounds her in reality and reminds her that even though she has depression, she still has the strength to get out of bed and go for a run. The name "Still I Run" draws strength and inspiration from Angelou's poem to rise above the stigma and thrive while also promoting running as a tool for coping with the daily struggles of mental illness.
About the Logo
The logo version of Still I Run replaces the "I" with a semicolon. The use of the semicolon draws from the Project Semicolon movement which started as one girl's desire to share her story and has morphed into a nationally recognized mental health organization dedicated to providing advocacy, education, support, and public awareness so that all individuals and families affected by mental illness can build better lives.
Why a semicolon? Well, that was best summed by Project Semicolon's original founder: "A semicolon is used when an author could have chosen to end their sentence but chose not to. You are the author, the sentence is your life. For anyone suffering from depression, anxiety, self-harm, contemplating suicide, you are not alone. You are worthy. You are loved."
The semicolon is green to match the international symbol of a green ribbon for Mental Health Awareness.
Lastly, the arrow represents life. Sometimes you get pulled back, but sometimes you have to get pulled back in order to be propelled forward towards your target.