I am super excited to announce my latest project, which brings together two of my passions: bicycles and mental health.
Why mental health?
Mental health is an issue that touches all of us, no matter where we are in the world.
Mental health crosses border and affects everyone.
Whether in secret or out in the open, millions of people have struggled with mental illness. In fact, I think you would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t have a friend or family member who has faced depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, or suicidal thoughts and behaviours. The World Health Organization has identified mental health problems as a leading cause of disability worldwide, and problematically, the mhGAP program has shown that as much as 75% of those with mental health problems (particularly in low income countries) do not have access to the treatment they need. Clearly, we have a lot of work to do in order to address mental illness globally.
There is so much yet to learn and understand about mental illness, which is why I am passionate about mental health research. In order to better understand and treat mental health problems, investment in innovative research is critically needed. Further, efforts to reduce stigma and promote mental health are all important factors in the effort to support those who are dealing with mental health problems as well as enable individuals to live full, productive, and rich lives.
I love cycling, so this seemed initially like a logical place to start. I have dipped my toe in the cycle touring waters, and would like to build my confidence and competence in this area.
These self-supported challenges also draw some poetic parallels with the struggles with mental health. These international tours will cross many borders, and mental illnesses cross borders. Further, the physicality of these journeys cannot be understated. Further, there are some compelling links between the relationship between our physical and mental health, and as someone who has struggled with anxiety, I know first-hand how critical it is to be physically active in order to cope with the challenges of life.
What am I going to do?
Challenge 1: Riding to my roots (London to Netherlands – March 2016)
Challenge 2: To the moors (London to Bradford – April/May 2016)
Challenge 3: Sister’s century ride (Canada – June 2016)
Challenge 4: Dykxhoorns in France (London to Paris – July 2016)
Challenge 5: Wouldn’t it be Nice to see Italy? (Nice to Italy – August 2016)
Challenge 6: Scandinavian saunter (Stockholm to Oslo – October 2016)
[… More challenges to be announced. If you have suggestions, let me know!]
Grand challenge: JOGLE (John O’Groats to Lands End – Summer 2017). I want these smaller tours and training to culminate in an epic 1,500+km (960mi) trip across the UK.
As you might expect, I will be posting blogs of these adventures.
What can you do?
All of my trips are completely self-funded (and as frugal as possible, due to my student life), but I would love to be able to support a wonderful charity that invests in mental health research. In the past, I have participated in many one-off charity events, where I have raised bits of money for various organizations, but I decided that I wanted to be more intentional about these efforts, focusing on something that I deeply care about. Also, by having my team behind me, I will have additional motivation to tackle these challenges, knowing that I am making a tiny difference to something I think is really important.
I have chosen Mental Health Research UK, which is a charity focused specifically on supporting vital research in mental health (England No. 1125538). Not only has this organization generously funded some of my PhD research, they are really transparent about where donations go. In fact, they carefully monitor overhead expenses so they can ensure that they give no less than 95% of all donations directly to mental health research in order to make a difference in the long term.
Also, if you want to join in on any of these adventures, or if you want to take the torch for illuminating mental health issues and raise money as you head out on wild and wonderful journeys, please let me know!
Thanks everyone for being the best support team a girl could ask for!