Ride Don’t Hide started with one man’s ride and has become a nationwide movement for mental health.
Ride Don't Hide began in 2010 as Michael Schratter, a Vancouver teacher and newspaper columnist, embarked on a global journey to raise funds for CMHA BC Division and raise awareness about the stigma surrounding mental illness. He circumnavigated the world, cycling 40,000 kilometres, across six continents and 33 countries, inviting the people he met along the way to help end mental illness stigma. Michael posted their pledges and stories on his website, where he shared photos and reflections from the road.
CMHA BC Division along with CMHA branches in Vancouver-Burnaby and North & West Vancouver picked up Michael’s torch and in the following year raised $75,000 and engaged 500 participants.
Now Ride Don’t Hide is in more than 25 communities across eight provinces with close to 10,000 participants each year. To date Ride Don’t Hide has raised more than $10 million for local mental health programs and services and has become the largest cycling event of its kind in Canada.
In Michael Schratter’s Own Words: Why I ride
“Why do I ride? Quite simply, I ride to not hide.”
Michael Schratter’s 40,000 km journey started with childhood inspiration. “I grew up in the 80s in BC. Like so many people, I watched, amazed, as Terry Fox used his strength and his stamina to fight cancer,” Growing up, Michael used a tremendous amount of emotional and mental energy hiding his mental illness, because the stigma was very strong.
“I thought that if I could create a bit of a media circus around an audacious idea: cycle the world while exclaiming that it is okay to acknowledge that you are dealing with a mental illness, then perhaps others would find the courage to come out and publicly acknowledge their mental health challenges; thereby creating some empathy and normalization of the subject while simultaneously vanquishing the fear and misunderstanding that is the basis of stigma.
“We know that 1 in 5 Canadians deal with a mental health issue at any given time and that this equates to approximately 7 million Canadians. And so, where are these Canadians?”
Michael decided to use his personal strength, and his professional credentials as a teacher and journalist, to lead by example and come out of hiding. He believes it is crucial for people with mental health issues to make themselves visible.
“For it is this vast majority that can provide the counter-balance of realism and humanism to the negative sensationalistic portrayals of mental illness that are so often depicted in the media and in the entertainment industry.
"It is in our hiding that mental illness stigma flourishes. It is in our coming out that stigma disappears."
What started as a show of defiance and strength, a personal bike ride around the world, has become a nationwide movement to bring mental health into the open.
Today, a teacher, a husband, and a father living in Vancouver, Michael inspires others to take up the ride: “Don’t let the negative stories stand. Tell your own.” He adds, thinking back on his solo adventure, “In Ride Don’t Hide, no one rides alone.”