The Way I See It: Time to bring it out in the open

I magine riding 40,000 km on your bicycle across Canada, through South America to Thailand, Vietnam to China, Europe and across Canada.

  • Oct. 16, 2011 2:00 p.m.

I magine riding 40,000 km on your bicycle across Canada, through Central and South America over to Thailand, Vietnam to China, through Europe and across Canada, and numerous places in between.

The physical and emotional strength this must take is incredible to me.  And to do it to bring attention to mental health — Michael Schratter is amazing. His Ride Don’t Hide world campaign is raising funds for mental health. The purpose of this incredible feat is to bring attention and awareness to the stigma around mental illness.

“Mental illness is not a weakness of character it is a disease. And with most things that can make you sick, a bit of education, treatment and empathy can go a long way in making a person better. Isn’t it about time our society was healthy enough to allow people afflicted with a mental illness to heal? Isn’t it about time we stopped being accomplices in suffering?” This is quoted from an article Michael wrote for 24 hours where he is a contributing writer in addition to being a Grade 5 school teacher in Vancouver.

What a role model he is for his students, a hero for young and old, a person to admire and to appreciate for their accomplishments and their messages of hope.

Michael grew up in Vernon. He is hoping to raise $100,000 for the Canadian Mental Health Association. You can donate online at www.ridedonthide.com

Depression, mental illness, suicide: we need to talk about it openly. Michael has a column, Silence is Dangerous, and I quote, “One of the main enduring stigmas about mental illness, particularly for men, is that it is a sign of weakness. From an early age boys are socialized to be tough, to not cry. They internalize their pain and repress their feelings and fears. This silence can be fatal.”

Let us not bury our heads in the sand or turn the other way when we see someone we care about suffering. Talk to them, get information, seek help. As parents we need to raise our sons and daughters to express their feelings, to allow them to ask questions, communicate openly and be wholly human. And at the same time as we do this for our children, we need to do this for ourselves, as mothers and fathers our own mental health and whole health is important.

Thank you, Michael, you have made a difference for men and women around the world, people are going to pay more attention, ask for help, receive education, and many will walk taller.

Thank you for riding, not hiding.