Ride Don't Hide is a community bike ride hosted by the Canadian Mental Health Association to increase awareness and help break down the stigma surrounding mental health problems. It's also a fundraiser for programs to promote mental well-being.
While this major annual event takes place on a Sunday morning in June, organizers noticed there weren't many teenagers taking part, so the idea for a junior edition tailored to teens was born.
Under police escort, on Friday, May 6th this inaugural youth ride started from Windermere Secondary in East Vancouver in the morning and wound its way over a 10 kilometer route to finish at Burnaby North Secondary. The youth Ride marked the finale of CMHA's Mental Health Week awareness campaign.
Ride Don't Hide originator Michael Schratter, a teacher at David Oppenheimer Elementary, explained how critical it is that people communicate more openly and honestly with teens about these complex disorders.
"Most mental health issues begin in the high school years, and they can be so debilitating," said Schratter, who is bi-polar himself. "Like any other disease, if it's diagnosed early the treatment is better. The 'Hollywoodization' of mental health is very scary for those affected, when all you see is negative. Kids need to see people who are successfully coping with mental illness, getting through life."
Windermere Vice Principal Alison Ogden supported the ride because she understands that mental illness significantly impacts how students function at school and wants to be sure teachers and parents are supporting their kids' mental and physical wellness wherever possible.
"The Ride is a great conversation starter," said Nima, a grade 9 rider. "This topic affects everyone, it needs more awareness, and it should be talked about more at school."
"This is a good cause, it affects a lot of people," said Maggie, also in grade 9. "You want to help other students understand, and it's fun." "You're on a team, it's good when everyone's participating," concurs Richard, grade 11.