BY BILL PHILLIPS
Antony Derksen is going for a bike ride Sunday.
It’s not an ordinary bike ride. It’s a 50-kilometre trek out to the drive-in on Chief Lake Road and back.
It’s a special ride for Antony because not only will his daughter Brooklyn be cheering him on, but because the Ride Don’t Hide event supports the resiliency and recovery of individuals experiencing mental illness. Antony supports Brooklyn as she deals with her mental health.
“It’s impacted our family’s life and I know the more I talk about with people, a lot other people’s lives have been impacted by it too,” says Antony. “When you’re on the outside, you’re not sure what to do … heard about Ride Don’t Hide and said ‘hey I can do that.’”
The Canadian Mental Health Association’s Ride Don’t Hide, which kicks off from from CN Centre at 10 a.m. Sunday, is a fundraiser to create awareness for mental health and mental illness. Participating riders can choose to do a six-kilometre, 15-kilometre, 30-kilometre or 50-kilometre ride. The goal of the ride is to cycle in plain sight to put an end to the stigma of mental illness.
“A lot of people who are affected by it, they feel alone, with the awareness you realize there are ton of people who are dealing with these issues and you’re not alone,” says Antony. “There are ton of people who can help you with it.”
“It not only affects me personally and directly in a really, really enormous way, but it also affected other people in my family, my friends and other people in ways that you wouldn’t even realize,” she says. “It’s such an important thing to have your mental health and your emotional health. It’s something that we all need to pay attention to. We need to recognize that when something’s off, it’s not a problem. It’s OK, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It doesn’t mean we’re a bad person.”
Too often there is a stigma associated with mental health and those who are experiencing problems are sometimes afraid to reach out for help.”
“I tend to close off and that’s caused a lot of relationships to crumble,” says Brooklyn. “I’ve had to build up a lot of relationships that have gone downhill. Even though I have, I still think it’s really important for not only me to be putting in those efforts in spreading awareness, but also for those other people to be understanding and aware of what mental illness really entails. It’s a lot more complicated than what’s on the surface.”
Through events like Ride Don’t Hide, awareness of mental health issues has certainly improved, says Brooklyn.
“The stigma is around recognizing how it affects the people being challenged with mental illness,” she says. “It’s not so much it’s a bad thing or a difficult thing that they have it but moreso now we’re at the point where we need to open our minds and step into that other person’s shoes.”
She says it’s important for everyone to try and understand what people are experiencing.
“I think we’re really come a long way in recognizing that mental health is not a problem, it’s not something that’s wrong with you,” she says. “It’s something that’s treatable and real and very, very, very big. It’s happening to a lot of people and a lot of people are dealing with it. We just need to be understanding of what other people are going through, whether it’s mental health or not.”
Sunday’s Ride Don’t Hide event is a family event and you can attend, even if you aren’t going to ride. The event, which starts with registration for riders at 9 a.m., will include Kids Zone activities throughout the day, a health rair, RCMP Register a Bike Program, speakers and a barbecue by donation.
So what can you expect if you show up Sunday?
“Most of all what they can expect is to just feel really good and confident about what they’re giving back to people who can’t necessarily speak up for themselves,” says Brooklyn.
Riders can register online: Ride Don’t Hide
Registration is very easy and can be done on a smart phone. Then show up and ride or just show up and support Ride Don’t Hide.
Riders will receive a distinctive coloured jersey. Last year it was green and the colour will likely be different this year.
Antony is currently the top fund raiser, raising $1,195 towards his $2,000 goal.
“Thanks to people who have sponsored me, especially Mark at Active Body Nutrition,” said Anthony. “It’s amazing, when you talk to people and you find out how many people are affected by mental health issues.”
For Brooklyn, her advice for anyone have some problems … reach out.
“It can take a while to for someone to get there, but I feel that when they do it’s going to be the best decision they’ve made,” she says. “It was the best decision I made. I wish I would have recognized sooner that I needed help.”
Another key is having a good support system.
“This is why the ride is so important,” she says. “People who don’t have that in their life or aren’t being offered that, they’re still being reassured that people are coming out here to support them.