Penticton’s Ride Don’t Hide saw a record number of riders cycle for mental health on June 23.
A total of 125 riders came out to fundraise for the Canadian Mental Health Association, and to help bring about awareness of mental health by “riding in plain sight.” One in three Canadians have been diagnosed with some form of mental health issue.
“Less than 40 per cent of folks with an illness actually reach out for help,” said Leah Schulting, the executive director for the South Okanagan Similkameen branch of the CMHA. “Whereas, with a physical illness, such as a broken arm or broken leg, everyone wants to offer support, but some people feel the stigma associated with mental illness and they don’t want to speak out. So we just want people to know that it’s OK to talk about it, that we all have mental health, and we all struggle from time to time. So talk about it.”
This year, in addition to the 12, 24, and 36-kilometre distances for the ride, a five-kilometre walk was introduced. The Stride Don’t Hide saw 15 newcomers to the event, helping to make the record number of participants this year.
Ride Don’t Hide started in 2010 after Michael Schratter, a Vancouver teacher who had experienced stigma while living with bipolar disorder, embarked on a 40,000 km ride around the globe for mental health.
Eight years on, many high-profile Canadians are cycling or speaking up about mental illness as Ride Don’t Hide ambassadors, including the Okanagan’s own former weatherman Mike Roberts, Olympic rower Silken Laumann, indie rock band the Elwins, Olympic hurdler Noelle Montcalm and 23-year-old Ryan Martin, cycling across Canada, and chronicling his experience online at www.mindcycle.ca and on Instagram @mindcycle_canada
Joining the ride in Penticton this year was Olympic gold medallist bobsleigher Justin Kripps.
“When I started up with one of my sponsors, they require their athletes to work with a sports psychologist, and I found myself that I was guilty of the stigma,” said Kripps, who is from Summerland. “You know, why do I need to work with a psychologist? There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with me. After I did a couple sessions, I realized it’s not that you’re OK or you’re not OK. There’s a whole spectrum, and you can work on it like your physical health.”
After the ride itself on June 23, organizers believed they had raised over $15,000.
All of the money raised by the ride goes to support the local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, and their programs in the community. The association supports not only Penticton, but up to Summerland, out to Princeton, and down to the border.
In Penticton, the association runs the Unity House, which supports over 200 individuals with mental health issues.
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