Travelling more than 7,500 kilometres, Martin Bauman is going to spend three months cycling across Canada to raise awareness for mental health. Bauman, an anchor and reporter for 570 News, will leave Waterloo Region at the beginning of June and return in early September. Starting in Vancouver, he plans to cycle more than 100 kilometres a day, ending in St. John’s in late August. His plans take him through almost every province (sorry Prince Edward Island).
Inspired by a family friend who participated in a cycling fundraiser for refugees last October, Bauman’s idea of a cross-Canada trip started to take shape. As his plan to bike across the country became clear, Bauman identified a cause that would keep him motivated throughout the long summer – mental health. Under the name, Martin’s Ride for Mental Health, Bauman hopes to raise $10,000 for the Defeat Depression campaign led by the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, with special focus on the Waterloo Wellington Dufferin branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).
Bauman shared openly with me the impact mental illness has had on his life, and while I identified with his experience, I did not share my story with him. I wanted to share that I had went through something similar, but it didn’t come out. Only once I sat down to write this article did it sink in that I was Bauman’s target audience. Talking about mental health and wellness wasn’t something that happened in my family growing up. It is something I’ve encouraged with my friends, but not something I’ve participated in.
When Bauman was ten his cousin completed suicide. When I was nine my uncle completed suicide. Bauman shared his story, shared his hope that people would feel inspired to share theirs, and still I did not share my story with him. For my family, in retrospect, the warning signs were obvious. But in order to have an open dialogue about mental health, you need to have the language and a supportive environment in place to allow these types of conversations to happen. We didn’t have that in my family at that time.
“I’ve seen so many people dear to me suffer in silence — from family, to close friends, to mentors. I’ve felt the loss of suicide in my family. I’ve also seen tremendous strength in friends and family opening up and sharing their journeys,” said Bauman.
“Mental health is something I’ve struggled with myself, and sometimes with challenges of this scope, it’s hard to know how to make a tangible difference,” Bauman said. “This is something small I can do to hopefully make it easier for someone else to get the help they need.”
Ultimately, Bauman hopes by sharing his story others will be encouraged to talk about mental health. This ride is just another piece to further the conversation to reduce stigma.
As a culture we’re not comfortable talking about mental illness. Because you can’t see mental illness, we can act like it doesn’t exist. But it does exist and we need to talk about it. We need to share our stories, how these experiences have impacted our lives. This is what will be keeping Bauman motivated all summer as he bikes across Canada.
Another local event is hoping to encourage people to start talking about mental health. Ride Don’t Hide is the first annual cycling fundraiser organized by CMHA to promote conversation about mental illness. Events will take place across Ontario and our local event will take place in St. Jacobs on Sunday, June 26. Participants can select either an eight kilometre or 47 kilometre ride. This, like Martin’s Ride, is another piece of the conversation.
It’s no coincidence that Martin’s Ride and Ride Don’t Hide make the connection between cycling and mental health. The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete, physical, mental and social well-being not merely the absence of disease of infirmity.” Being active can positively influence your overall mental health. Your physical health and mental health are connected.
Maybe each time we tell stories like Bauman’s or mine, another person will feel like they can speak up and join the conversation. You can donate online to Martin’s Ride for Mental Health through the Mental Disorders Society of Canada website or register for CMHA’s Ride Don’t Hide event on June 26.