The seventh annual Kamloops Ride Don’t Hide event will take place on June 23, but promotion of the nationwide fundraising bike ride that brings mental health out into the open began this week — Mental Health Week.
Three-time Olympian mountain biker Catharine Pendrel kicked off Mental Health Week by talking about the importance of Ride Don’t Hide, which will take place next month in 25 communities across Canada.
Cyclists of all ages are invited to take part in the event that aims to build awareness, inclusion and acceptance, and that encourages everyone to speak openly about their own mental health.
Pendrel is racing at Vedder Mountain in Chilliwack this weekend, then off to Europe on Monday ahead of World Cup racing.
Pendrel said Shelley Trudeau, the Canadian Mental Health Association’s housing and Ride Don’t Hide event manager in Kamloops, reached out to her about the event, which Pendrel said is an opportunity to learn about mental-health tools available locally.
Two people in the cycling community recently died by suicide: Olympic medallist and multiple-time world champion Kelly Catlin, 23, and junior Canadian champion Charlotte Creswicke, 19.
“To the outside, they look extremely successful and they are extremely successful, but being successful doesn’t necessarily mean everything is rosy on the inside,” Pendrel said.
“The whole idea behind Ride Don’t Hide is starting conversations so that people know it’s important and healthy to talk about mental health and struggles and it doesn’t show weakness or any failing to reach out and talk about it. It should be an ongoing conversation.”
Pendrel said there are simple things that are very important to an athlete, in terms of eating healthy, having good sleep hygiene and reducing stress.
“In my life, you definitely see the impact of stress on how you feel about yourself, how you feel about the world in general, your confidence,” Pendrel said. “In the sports world, at the higher level, you’re lucky to have access to sports psychologists and that’s encouraged, rather than stigmatized. You’re building these mental-health tools before you ever need them. Seeing that extend into the broader community with Ride Don’t Hide, I think it emphasizes two things: getting physical exercise and building a community.”
Pendrel said she has not struggled with a debilitating mental illness, but does see mental health as being extremely important.
“You have to understand the highs and lows people can go through,” she said.
Christa Mullaly, executive director of the Kamloops branch of the CMHA, said this year’s Ride Don’t Hide event will be held in Riverside Park.
“The visibility of our event and the size it has grown to demonstrate to me that people are ready to come out into the open and be supported,” Mullaly said.
Statistics show more than half of Canadians (53 per cent) consider anxiety and depression to be epidemic in Canada, Mullaly said, noting two thirds (66 per cent) of those with mental-health issues do not access help, largely due to stigma.
“When we hide from each other and from how we’re feeling, we don’t get the support or help we deserve or need,” she said. “We all deserve to feel well. And connecting with each other, with our families and our communities through Ride Don’t Hide can help forge those bonds and fortify that social cohesion that reassures us we are not alone.”
Ride Don’t Hide is the largest mental-health bike ride in Canada, with more than 10,000 riders taking part, raising more than $2 million each year for the Canadian Mental Health Association. This year’s national sponsor is the Medicine Shoppe.
For more information on getting involved, go online to ridedonthide.ca.
A national plan to address suicide
Members of Parliament from all parties voted this week support Timmins-James Bay NDP MP Charlie Angus’ call for a national suicide prevention action plan.
Canada is the only G7 country without a national suicide action plan.
“This is a historic moment,” said Angus. “It is possible for parliamentarians to work together across party lines. The need for the federal government to play a positive role in working with health organizations, affected communities and Indigenous people is clear. This is about saving lives.”
Quebec developed a plan in the 1990s, which reduced youth suicide by 50 per cent. Bill M-174 calls on the government to follow through on a proposed plan that lays out important steps proven to reduce the threat of suicide across the country.
“The work of creating and implementing the plan remains and the government needs to move forward quickly. We need to get the groundwork laid before the election to keep the momentum going,” Angus said.
“Canadians have been waiting for this for a long time. The government owes it to them to get moving and put something real in place.”
Angus’ motion had been endorsed by the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses’ Association, Nishnawbe Aski Nation and the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.