This Sunday Monique Godby will be riding for her life.
The Penticton woman will also be pedalling the 10-kilometre Ride Don’t Hide course along the KVR Trail for the millions of other Canadians who, like herself, struggle with mental illness.
“Hiding it always makes things worse, and it took a long time for me but I’m not hiding any more,” she said recently while relaxing at Unity House. “So I smile and say: ‘This is who I am and I’m not going to hide anymore.’ Mental illness is part of my life, it is who I am but I’ve decided it’s not going to be my whole life.”
The local office of the Canadian Mental Health Association is still taking registrations for the cycling event which is sponsored in large part this year by Shoppers Drug Mart.
This year’s ride, which also has a 20-kilometre course, is targeting women and families impacted by mental illness.
While the last few years have been a coming out of sorts for people with psychological issues, the journey is far from over.
Helping cover the remaining distance as quickly as possible is what the ride is all about.
“Everyday is a challenge when you have mental illness, it is something we struggle with all the time and the stigma that is attached to it,” said Godby.
“It is a matter of setting priorities, and the important thing for me and everyone is to get out there and help others. Whenever I notice a situation where I can help I’m going to get out there and do what I can.”
She admitted some days are tough just to get out of bed, but knowing there is support out there for her makes it easier to cope.
“I focus on the positive and not the stigma,” she added.
Dennis Tottenham is the executive director of the South Okanagan Similkameen branch of the association, who sees daily the difficulties people continue to face.
“A lot of them don’t know about the services, or the services are not available, or because of the stigma they don’t come forward and so continue to suffer in silence,” he said. “Often people are blamed for having a mental illness, that somehow it’s their fault and they deserve it.”
Compounding the problem is there are many single-parent families, often mothers and children, and the pressures sometimes stretch coping mechanisms to the breaking point.
“That can include anxiety, depression, attention deficit disorder and self-harming activities such as cutting and anorexia and bulimia,” said Tottenham “Then, when you throw in things like cyber-bullying and all the challenges of the Internet, it can really be overwhelming if you don’t get help or know where to find it.”
One of the goals of the ride is to help raise awareness and let people know there is help available.
Tottenham is hoping for about 75-100 riders this Sunday.
Registration is at 8:30 a.m. at the KVR Middle School with the ride starting at 9:15.
Registration is $35 and kids under 14 can ride for free. Registration includes a rider shirt, entertainment and a barbecue.
There will be a number of prizes including one for the highest pledge given out afterwards
For more information call 250-493-8999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.