Ryan Martin’s cross-Canada bike journey to raise awareness and money for mental health has been quite a ride.
The Guelph man started in British Columbia in May and has so far travelled 5,500 kilometres and raised $70,000 so far for the Canadian Mental Health Association.
On Wednesday Martin, 23, got to sleep in his own bed for a change as his contribution to the CMHA’s Ride Don’t Hide campaign made a stop in Guelph.
“It’s just really, really nice to be home,” the Centennial high school grad said. “I’ve never had so much appreciation for home and how beautiful it is.”
Martin said his ride so far has been a “life changing experience,” with both physical and mental elements.
“I’ve biked through the Rockies, I’ve pushed through the winds on the Prairies and I’ve fought off the bugs in Minnesota and survived the crazy roads in Northern Ontario,” Martin said.
“I’ve talked to corporate groups, people on the streets, farmers in Saskatchewan on a country road, old ladies over coffee at Tim Horton’s and old men who meet every morning at McDonalds in Winnipeg.
“I’ve talked to young people, old people, men, women, Canadians and Americans. But the biggest thing I’ve learned in this whole journey is that mental health is something that affects us the most, but is talked about the least.”
That is the whole point of the ride, said Martin.
“I want to break the ice about mental health.”
Martin is frank and open about his own battles, how it took him a long time to accept and address his anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder and how it took a while to “build my tool kit” to deal with them.
“On this ride I wanted to share my story, and get people to share their story,” Martin said.
Accepting your mental health issues and then addressing them by building a tool box to to deal with them are the key, he said.
Everything from talking to friends, medication, therapy, research, exercise, eating habits, breathing exercises and meditation are all things Martin uses to deal with his issues.
“It’s a combination of things used at the appropriate time that helps you through the hard part,” said Martin.
As for the ride itself, Martin said he has managed to avoid some of the hottest weather, but bad and narrow roads, heavy traffic, bugs and the wind are all big challenges are things he’s had to deal with.
“It’s probably been a harder physical challenge than I thought,” he said. “I never really understood how much of a challenge all those things would create.
He said the incredible thing has been the people and how whenever he’s at a low point, he meets a person or people that helps lift his spirits.
Martin will continue his 8,000 kilometre ride after his brief stop in Guelph.
For more information and to donate, go to Martin’s website at www.mindcycle.ca.
“Our slogan for Guelph is to make a difference both globally and locally, and you completely embody that,” Mayor Cam Guthrie said at Wednesday’s event.
“We’re so proud of what you’re doing.”
Ride Don’t Hide Ride Don’t Hide is the CMHA’s flagship fundraising campaign focused on reducing stigma and raising money for mental health. In its seventh year, Ride Don’t Hide has raised $6 million in funding for mental health programs and services, says a CMHA news release.