July 21, 2017

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Bike ride aims to break mental-health stigma

Cycling against the mental health stigma

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Sean Miller, 44, is a volunteer with the Ride Don’t Hide event, which takes place Sunday at Vimy Ridge Park.</p>

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Sean Miller, 44, is a volunteer with the Ride Don’t Hide event, which takes place Sunday at Vimy Ridge Park.

Some people can’t wait to leave work when their day is done, but Sean Miller is not one of those.

Miller is so passionate about his work as a program co-ordinator at the Canadian Mental Health Association’s (CMHA) Manitoba and Winnipeg office that he spends some of his free time volunteering for Ride Don’t Hide, the organization’s annual community bike ride.

The event, which takes place Sunday, aims to break the stigma surrounding mental health while raising funds to support mental health programs.

It’s a topic close to Miller’s heart. Between 1996 and 2005, the 44-year-old Fort Rouge resident received four different diagnoses: psychosis, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and schizophrenia.

Medical professionals believed he would be medicated and hospitalized for life.

"It was quite disconcerting and very bleak in terms of a prognosis," Miller says. "I had no hope, I’d lost pretty much most of my friends and I stopped doing a lot of the things I enjoyed doing, because of my negative self-perception and because of the social stigma I faced."

With the support of his wife, Doris, Miller sought treatment. Today, he is symptom-free and does not need to take any medication.

"I’ve been given a clean bill of health," Miller says. "It’s a testament to the power of community and to the power of getting the right people in your corner."

He adds that sharing his story with others was an important part of his recovery. It helped give him hope and it allowed him to learn about treatment options he didn’t know were available.

"It’s of tremendous value for people to get out and share their stories (of mental illness)," Miller says.

That’s part of what makes Ride Don’t Hide so exciting for Miller.

"It’s a great opportunity for the community to come together, make a united stand against the stigma and discrimination that exists, and encourage people to get together as a community to address the issue," he says.

Ride Don’t Hide is hosted by CMHA offices across Canada. In Winnipeg, participants will cycle a 21-kilometre route beginning and ending at Vimy Ridge Park.

The route will take cyclists through the Wolseley, River Heights and downtown communities, with planned "wellness station" stops at the legislative building and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

These stops will feature media interviews with Ride Don’t Hide ambassadors, gift giveaways to the public to promote the event and its message, as well as a refreshment station for participating cyclists.

Without volunteers such as Miller, the CMHA would not be able to successfully run Ride Don’t Hide, says Katherine O’Rourke, event co-ordinator in the Manitoba and Winnipeg office.

"Sean is just an incredible person," O’Rourke says. "His story is so moving and it gives hope for so many people because he’s in long-term recovery, which is fantastic."

There are still opportunities to get involved as a volunteer at Sunday’s event. Anyone interested can phone the CMHA office at 204-982-6100.

If you know a special volunteer, please contact aaron.epp@gmail.com.

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