Ride aims to end stigma

NANAIMO – Charity event takes place June 21 to support mental health programs.

Sit up.

Put your feet on the floor.

Put your slippers on.

Push yourself out of bed.

For the eight months that she fought depression, Carroll Xavier lived out her days in steps.

“It takes everything you have to put one foot in front of the other every day,” said Xavier, who suffered a nervous breakdown after being bullied in the workplace.

Next year, she hopes to ride to shed light on mental illness and the need to break its stigma.

Xavier is a supporter of Ride don’t Hide, an annual charity event by the Canadian Mental Health Association to raise money and get people talking about mental health. This year’s event happens June 21 and while Xavier will miss it, she plans to help the cause and gear up for the ride next year.

The national campaign which will see thousands of cyclists support the ride this month, was founded four years ago by Michael Schratter, a Vancouver teacher living with bipolar disorder. He spent almost 18 months cycling 40,000 kilometres around the globe to raise money for the mental health association and awareness of mental illness. Hearing his story has given Xavier the incentive to tell her own and see if she can help people the way his honesty helped her.

It took Xavier eight months of supports and counseling to claw her way out of depression and feel strong enough to re-enter her workplace and prove she wasn’t a victim. The more people who talk about and accept it, the more people with mental illness won’t be afraid to live out in the open where they can get help, said Xavier, who wants to address stigma.

“When you say I have depression or I was depressed or I suffer from PTSD, or I have anxiety attacks, the look on [people’s] faces is like ‘oh, I hope it’s not catching,’ or they try to cheer you up,” she said. “You can’t cheer someone who’s depressed.”

One in five Canadians will experience a mental health program this year, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“Mental health is important to everyone and we are showing community support”, said Gwen Vonarx, program and event coordinator for the mid-island CMHA branch.

Ride don’t Hide happens June 21 at Maffeo Sutton Park. Money raised will go towards public education and a speaker series for mental health. For more information visit www.ridedon’t hide.com.