“There are many common misconceptions about mental health,” says Maureen Davis, the Executive Director of the Prince George branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association.
“Mental health and illness are on a continuum, in the same way that physical health and illness is on a continuum. Some experience a long life with minor issues, some have lifelong struggles.”
CMHA staff is currently working hard preparing for their organization's 7th annual “Ride Don't Hide” fundraiser, where community members join together to ride their bikes and reduce the stigma around mental health issues.
According to Davis, just as someone may have a hip injury that acts up later in life, mental health issues can come up later too, manifesting as anxiety or depression.
Davis says that as with any recurring condition, “it's all treatable and manageable”, and people who have mental health issues benefit from learning what treatment plan works for them.
Davis says that seeking help can be anything from going to speak with a doctor, getting into therapy, or spending more time with friends. For some people, medication and diet changes will help – it all depends on what works for each individual.
The Canadian Mental Health Association provides help to people who need it, offering life skills, vocational training, peer support programs, as well as parenting coaching, tenant classes, resource housing assistance, Bounce Back phone coaching, and a Clubhouse where people can congregate to spend time together.
A huge element of the CMHA and of the Ride Don't Hide event is opening up the dialogue around mental health, says Davis. “We can all be vulnerable to mental illness, so it's important to not hide from these conversations with one another, and to celebrate the wellness we do have in our lives.”
This year's Ride Don't Hide event is taking place on June 23rd from 9 am to 1 pm, starting at the CN Centre. There will be four roads to bike on for all skill levels, from a 6-kilometre flat route to a fifty-kilometre route with a big hill. Davis says that last year there were close to 100 participants, and that children are encouraged to join. Concurrent with the bike-riding event, there will be a health fair taking place with many different agencies. 2 Rivers Catering will offer lunch by donation, and there will be “lots of music and tons of fun.”