Ride Don’t Hide is a community event focusing on women’s mental health, put on by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). CMHA operates with the purpose of bringing a community together and supporting and speaking out against mental health and mental illness. Like the CMHA, I believe the way to reduce the stigma around mental and physical disabilities is through shared experiences and education.
As the CMHA puts it “a stigma is a prejudice or a discrimination”. Prejudice meaning you hold a negative belief or attitude toward people viewed as different. Discrimination is acting on this belief.
My cousin Kirsti and many other children I’ve worked with and met who have a physical disability, have been affected by a prejudice or discrimination. When I was battling my depression I held a stigma against my own illness. I didn’t want to be seen as different or weak. So instead I isolated myself. I avoided social events, took extremely long naps instead of engaging with friends. It got to the point where my friends stopped calling and I was alright with that. I believed I was the only one experiencing this ambiguousness, when in fact 70% of mental illness arises before the age of 18 (CMHA) and I was only 15. This in turn only made my battle twice as difficult. The age I was is the age you’re supposed to make memories with your friends, in my small town those friends are who you graduate with. Coming out of my depression was really difficult as I had missed out on those opportunities and missed out on a lot of memories. It took two years for me to get back on my feet and with the help of my family I started to reach out and I found the help and support I needed through my volunteer work with the Candy Stripers.
The Ride Don’t Hide event is significant in joining together memories of the community in an environment where it is safe and OK to speak out, as I did that day, and share your experiences. All while exercising in a 5-22 km bike ride.
Two Rivers Catering, was also present and is a phenomenal business idea. 80-90% of individuals living with a serious or persistent mental illness live without employment (CMHA), the Two Rivers Catering organization is dedicated to sustain mental health and individual independence by reducing the percentage of individuals living without employment. They offer jobs, assistance and training to these individuals.
I would like to give a big thank you to the CMHA for having me and allowing me to speak at the event as well as for your support and sponsorship.