CANMORE – Three elementary teachers and a nurse, embarked on an cycling trip across Canada, from the rock to the rockies, to raise money and awareness for youth mental health.
On July 1, Aaryn Coutts and Nancy Newman mounted their bikes while James Carson followed along in the support RV, leaving St. John's, N.L., to embark on their 48-day cycling journey across Canada. The group was joined along the way by nurse Paula Simpson, who started the trip in Thunder Bay.
“Our goal was to raise $30,000 … We ended up raising that before we left. We’re up over $35,000 now which is amazing and we’re pretty confident that we could receive $40,000 by the time we’re done,” Carson said.
All proceeds from the journey will be donated to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie, ON, particularly in its educational programming for the Child and Youth Mental Health In-Patient Unit.
According to the From the Rock to the Rockies website, around 20 per cent of Canadians at some point in their lifetime will suffer from mental illness. Carson himself has witnessed how mental illness has affected youth.
“As the three of us are teachers and Paula’s a nurse, we’ve seen it – specifically for me, probably in the last five to 10 years – not only the sheer volume of how many students and their families that it affects, but how complex it is,” Carson said.
Along the way, the group received plenty of support through donations, friendly waves and honks along the highway. But even more so, people who have been afflicted by, or know someone with a mental illness, have shared their stories to the group. They passed through the Bow Valley on their trip last Monday (Aug. 5).
“It’s not just funding, but it’s also people being willing to share their story. I think that’s an important thing, to learn to lean on people – and totally easier said than done for a lot of people – but to try and be vulnerable, to try and talk to people about your problems,” Carson said.
“If someone is struggling out there or having difficulties managing their mental health, I think that they’ll be kindly surprised as to how many people will say, ‘me too’ ... and then all of a sudden it’s like wow, I am not alone.”
Along the ride, the need for youth mental health in some areas are most prevalent than most. Simpson said the biggest shock for her was when they arrived in Swift Current, SK, she met the only psychologist in all of southern Saskatchewan.
“He only saw adults in his private practice, so I’m not sure who that leaves to cover for the youth that are struggling, but I think in a lot of cases,” Simpson said.
“If you can help a child when they are young, you’ll avoid hopefully, repeated episodes in the future or maybe even just give them the tools so they can handle it better when they’re older.”