End the stigma

Matt Molloy
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Clara's Big Ride rolls into Springdale

The power of the people she's helping has pushed Clara Hughes through some tough times on the Clara's Big Ride journey, and that same support was present in Springdale last week.

Clara Hughes, a six-time Canadian Olympic medalist, arrived in town last Tuesday evening as part of Clara's Big Ride, and she got there after bicycling over 180 kilometres from Corner Brook.

 

"It's all about connecting,” Hughes told reporters at her stop in Grand Falls-Windsor the next day. “If I don't meet people, I'm not able to hear their story, especially the young ones. I want them to know I'm serious and that I care about what we're riding for. I want them to feel connected to me, and in turn connect them to the Big Ride, and connect it to mental health.

 

"So many kids came up to me tonight, teenage girls with tears in their eyes came up saying, 'What you're doing for mental health really matters, and it matters to me.' When I get that feedback I know we're on the right track."

 

While in Springdale, Hughes took part in events at Springdale Stadium as well as at the IceCap Youth Centre.

 

"I just think it's so important to get the conversation on mental health going with Canadians of all ages, especially young Canadians because there's so much stigma attached to mental illness, and talk about mental health is non-existent," she said later. "It's something every family struggles with, and those struggles are becoming prevalent in younger and younger Canadians. The earlier we can get them talking about their feelings and what those feelings are, and maybe family situations, I think that will help enormously. I know when I was young we had a lot of dysfunction with substance abuse in my family, and as I grew up with mental illness with my sister and my father, I didn't know what it was. If we had all talked about it, I think it would have been a heck of a lot easier to get through as individuals and as a family.

 

"Hopefully, this can make a difference with young Canadians and get them excited about it and really empower them. Like I said tonight (Wednesday) about doing something and seeing what's out there, if they don't like what they see to do something themselves."

 

However, opening up about personal struggles with mental health isn't always an easy or comfortable thing to do, especially when it comes to youth.

 

However, Hughes said there are a multitude of options for young people who want to open up and talk, and all they have to do is step forward and do just that.

 

"I really talk to kids about feelings, and also my story and me going through depression. I talk about the feelings getting out of control and not knowing why I was crying, but mainly about getting help," said Hughes. "Knowing that you're not alone, knowing that there's someone to talk to, and knowing there are things like Kids Help Phone and there are councilors at school, so you should never, ever feel alone. I talk to kids about seeing a friend who isn't feeling good, and how they have to ask how they're doing and maybe asking a teacher for help. Kids have to know they can reach out to each other and let their friends know they're not alone, and they have a voice when it comes to supporting each other."

 

Clara's Big Ride

 

Talking about mental health is part of the battle, but when she isn't sharing her personal story, Hughes is bicycling across Canada to send her message.

 

She said the moment they got off the ferry in Port aux Basques, the typical Newfoundland and Labrador hospitality started to shine through.

 

"Since we stepped off the ferry in Port aux Basques, we got on our bikes and rode 165 km that day, and every kilometre of the way I swear nine out of 10 cars honked and waved, and all of the truckers have been good to us along the way. We call it trucker love," said Hughes, wearing her trademark grin. "We get honks and waves from the big transport trucks and logging trucks, so it's amazing to see how many people have connected...and that's what I love about this ride. The Big Ride is for everyone, and I feel like it's bringing us together in a way that's really special to me and I hope to all Canadians.

 

"We've ridden 4,400 kilometres in winter, basically, and we had one day riding into Halifax where we wore shorts and I had to buy sunscreen on the road because we didn't have it in the car," said Hughes. "Other than that it's been horrendous, but I feel like it's perfect for what we're riding for. We're riding because so many people are suffering in silence, and I feel if we can push through the elements and not give up, that makes a big statement when it comes to saying mental health matters to me and it matters to Canadians. We have to get the conversation going and this ride is going to keep on rolling no matter what the weather throws at us."

Clara Hughes, a six-time Canadian Olympic medalist, arrived in town last Tuesday evening as part of Clara's Big Ride, and she got there after bicycling over 180 kilometres from Corner Brook.

"It's all about connecting,” Hughes told reporters at her stop in Grand Falls-Windsor the next day. “If I don't meet people, I'm not able to hear their story, especially the young ones. I want them to know I'm serious and that I care about what we're riding for. I want them to feel connected to me, and in turn connect them to the Big Ride, and connect it to mental health.

"So many kids came up to me tonight, teenage girls with tears in their eyes came up saying, 'What you're doing for mental health really matters, and it matters to me.' When I get that feedback I know we're on the right track."

While in Springdale, Hughes took part in events at Springdale Stadium as well as at the IceCap Youth Centre.

"I just think it's so important to get the conversation on mental health going with Canadians of all ages, especially young Canadians because there's so much stigma attached to mental illness, and talk about mental health is non-existent," she said later. "It's something every family struggles with, and those struggles are becoming prevalent in younger and younger Canadians. The earlier we can get them talking about their feelings and what those feelings are, and maybe family situations, I think that will help enormously. I know when I was young we had a lot of dysfunction with substance abuse in my family, and as I grew up with mental illness with my sister and my father, I didn't know what it was. If we had all talked about it, I think it would have been a heck of a lot easier to get through as individuals and as a family.

"Hopefully, this can make a difference with young Canadians and get them excited about it and really empower them. Like I said tonight (Wednesday) about doing something and seeing what's out there, if they don't like what they see to do something themselves."

However, opening up about personal struggles with mental health isn't always an easy or comfortable thing to do, especially when it comes to youth.

However, Hughes said there are a multitude of options for young people who want to open up and talk, and all they have to do is step forward and do just that.

"I really talk to kids about feelings, and also my story and me going through depression. I talk about the feelings getting out of control and not knowing why I was crying, but mainly about getting help," said Hughes. "Knowing that you're not alone, knowing that there's someone to talk to, and knowing there are things like Kids Help Phone and there are councilors at school, so you should never, ever feel alone. I talk to kids about seeing a friend who isn't feeling good, and how they have to ask how they're doing and maybe asking a teacher for help. Kids have to know they can reach out to each other and let their friends know they're not alone, and they have a voice when it comes to supporting each other."

 

Clara's Big Ride 

Talking about mental health is part of the battle, but when she isn't sharing her personal story, Hughes is bicycling across Canada to send her message.

She said the moment they got off the ferry in Port aux Basques, the typical Newfoundland and Labrador hospitality started to shine through.

"Since we stepped off the ferry in Port aux Basques, we got on our bikes and rode 165 km that day, and every kilometre of the way I swear nine out of 10 cars honked and waved, and all of the truckers have been good to us along the way. We call it trucker love," said Hughes, wearing her trademark grin. "We get honks and waves from the big transport trucks and logging trucks, so it's amazing to see how many people have connected...and that's what I love about this ride. The Big Ride is for everyone, and I feel like it's bringing us together in a way that's really special to me and I hope to all Canadians.

"We've ridden 4,400 kilometres in winter, basically, and we had one day riding into Halifax where we wore shorts and I had to buy sunscreen on the road because we didn't have it in the car," said Hughes. "Other than that it's been horrendous, but I feel like it's perfect for what we're riding for. We're riding because so many people are suffering in silence, and I feel if we can push through the elements and not give up, that makes a big statement when it comes to saying mental health matters to me and it matters to Canadians. We have to get the conversation going and this ride is going to keep on rolling no matter what the weather throws at us."

Organizations: Big Ride, IceCap Youth Centre

Geographic location: Springdale Stadium, Corner Brook, Grand Falls-Windsor Port aux Basques Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Halifax

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