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For more information about the Foundation of Hope, visit

For the full schedule and registration for the Drive-Thru Walk for Hope, visit:

Jennifer Gibson has been the Associate Executive Director of the Foundation of Hope since 2019

Pandemic Offers More Evidence That
Mental and Physical Health Are Intertwined

33rd Walk for Hope Set to
Raise Funds for Mental Illness Research

By Jennifer Gibson

The global pandemic and resulting economic recession are having staggering effects on mental health. In fact, the latest statistics show that 41 percent of adults are suffering from anxiety and depression—that’s up 30 percent from pre-COVID levels. I admit, I’ve been way more anxious these past 18 or so months than I ever have been in my life previously, and it’s taken a toll on my eating habits, sleep cycle, and emotional resilience. A February 2021 Harris Poll showed that I’m not alone—physical ailments are trending up for people having difficulty coping with the pandemic stress.

Jennifer Gibson
  • 61% of adults report unwanted weight changes, with 42% gaining up to 29 pounds.
  • 67% report sleep issues, either sleeping more or less than they did prior to the pandemic.
  • 1 in 4 people have used alcohol to cope.
  • 47% of Americans cancelled health care appointments or treatments since the pandemic began.

Physical and mental health are definitely intertwined. For example, stress can lead to things such as panic attacks that may present in gastric problems or heart palpitations. Long-term weight gain caused by anxiety can result in heart disease and diabetes. And someone who has a heart attack may also suffer from depression. Researchers actively work to find connections between mental and physical health, and new treatments to help those suffering.

That’s where the Foundation of Hope comes in.  On Sunday, October 10th, at the Angus Barn, we will hold our 33rd Annual Walk for Hope as a Drive-Thru experience where 100 percent of the money raised by participants fund breakthrough, innovative mental illness research grants at the UNC Chapel Hill Department of Psychiatry. These seed research grants are usually between $40,000 and $50,000—to explore innovative new ideas, for new lines of questions, new treatments, new processes, and to understand the science around the causes of mental illness.

Prior to my current role as Associate Executive Director at the Foundation of Hope, I spent seven years working in the UNC Psychiatry Department. I saw how critical those seed grants are for the investigators and how the studies encourage scientific innovation. The relationships between the researchers and the Foundation are strong. It’s exciting to be a part it and to see where we can we make an impact. We firmly believe that research holds the key to informing new clinical treatments, initiatives and programs for kids, teenagers, and adults who are struggling with mental illness.

The Foundation of Hope was founded in 1984, and since then we've funded more than $6.9 million in seed research grants related to Alcohol/Substance Use, Anxiety Disorders, Autism, Depression, Eating Disorders, Genetics, PTSD, Schizophrenia, Women’s Mood Disorders, and other categories.  And in turn, those researchers we’ve helped with those seed grants have leveraged their projects into more than $191 million in further funding.

Like last year, due to the pandemic restrictions, our Walk for Hope has pivoted to be a Drive-Thru event. This fun, family-friendly drive-thru experience will loop through the entire Angus Barn property and allows participants the chance to enjoy a delicious burger lunch to go, win prizes, hear local music, get amazing giveaways, and more, all while staying safely in their car! For those who can’t attend in person, there is also a virtual walk/run option. So, join us as we take care of mind and body in our community with those who support mental health research for every person who struggles with mental illness.