Yesterday, more than 200 riders cycled in the 7th annual Ride Don’t Hide event at Creekside Park, raising $57,585 for the Canadian Mental Health Association, Vernon & District Branch.
The largest mental health bike ride in Canada, taking place in 31 communities across the country, Ride Don’t Hide raises much-needed funds that stay in local communities. Funds raised support a variety of community mental health programs and services, and help to eliminate the stigma of mental illness by inviting participants to “ride in plain sight.”
“It is heartwarming to see such dedicated support from our riders, sponsors and volunteers,” says Julia Payson, Executive Director of CMHA Vernon. “While our life experiences may vary, we share a common goal that connects and strengthens us. This is a movement; this is our community. We are coming together to end mental health stigma.”
The annual ride creates a safe, open community where individuals can talk about their mental health free of judgment. Post-ride activities included a free burger BBQ, games for the kids provided by O’Keefe Ranch, face-painting with the Valley First Community Team and science experiments with the Okanagan Science Centre.
Special guests included event founder and national ambassador, Michael Schratter and CHMA National CEO, Dr. Patrick Smith.
Schratter, a Vancouver teacher originally from Vernon, had experienced stigma while living with bipolar disorder. “It occurred to me that, if approximately twenty per cent—or one in five—Canadians experienced a mental health issue in a given year, then where are those seven million Canadians?” asked Schratter.
In 2010, he embarked on a 40,000 km ride around the globe for to raise awareness for mental health. “Stigma stops when we, the twenty per cent, reveal ourselves… mental illness is so common and so varied, it is nothing but an integral part of what it is to be human,” he says.
Smith, a founding Head of UBC’s Addiction Psychiatry Program and former Head of the Addiction Psychiatry Division at the University of Toronto, affirms that accepting, understanding and talking about mental illness can help alleviate the pain of stigma and stereotypes. “In order to thrive in life, we all need to feel hope, build resilience and a strong sense of connection and belonging, which the community spirit around Ride Don’t Hide really fosters.”
The Vernon ride is one of the most successful Ride Don’t Hide events in the country, last year raising more funds per capita than any other community.
This year, local team ‘Liam’s Lunar Lemurs,’ raised more than $30,000, coming in as the second-highest fundraising team nationally.
The team was established by volunteer event committee member Sheila Stainton, in memory of her son. “We are very thankful for the amazing support from the community and our volunteers year after year,” says Stainton. “Without their donations, sponsorships and volunteer time planning and coordinating the event, the ride would not be where it is today.”
High-profile Canadians are increasingly cycling or speaking up about mental illness as Ride Don’t Hide ambassadors, including Olympic rower Silken Laumann, indie rock band the Elwins, Olympic hurdler Noelle Montcalm, and 23-year-old Ryan Martin, who is cycling across Canada, and chronicling his experience online at www.mindcycle.ca and on Instagram @mindcycle_canada.
“It’s not easy to talk about your struggles—it’s nerve racking, it’s the ultimate vulnerability, but it’s also the most liberating and empowering thing you can do,” says Martin. “Once you start opening up, you are slowly releasing the built-up pressure inside of you. Less pressure equals less suffering.”
CMHA Vernon will be accepting donations towards this year’s Ride Don’t Hide until July 31, 2018. They can do so in person at their local CMHA branch or region, or by visiting vernon.ridedonthide.ca/.
Ride Don’t Hide returns to Vernon next year on June 23rd, 2019!