Audience members at the CMHA clubhouse rose to give Michael Schratter a standing ovation after his speech on mental illness on May 13.
Schratter, a school teacher from Vancouver, is the driving force behind the Ride Don’t Hide Campaign which focuses on raising awareness for mental illness and breaking the stigma that surrounds it. Salmon Arm will be participating in the ride for the second time in a row on June 22.
The campaign was conceived in 1995 when Schratter, who is bipolar, had a manic episode that landed him in his college campus hospital. Schratter mentioned that he was tired of feeling ashamed for his mental illness, and decided to do something about it.
“It was the notion that I had something to be ashamed of,” said Schratter.
It wasn’t until 2010 when, with the help of his wife Deborah, Schratter decided to put his dream into action and cycled around the world in order to raise money and dissolve the stigma around mental illness.
His trek took him 40,000 kilometres across six continents and 33 countries in 469 days, but he managed to complete his goal and raise $10,000 to go towards the Canadian Mental Health Association’s youth programs. In times of struggle, Schratter was able to find strength in people who believed in his cause, and as the campaign grew, so did his support.
Schratter said he believes it’s important to get rid of the stigma because it can result in isolation and restrict people from healing.
“The stigma is more damaging than the illness itself,” he said. “It is the cruelest and most debilitating of social punishments.”
And the toll is a big one. Schratter said that one in five Canadians deal with mental health and that suicide is the number two cause of death among youth.
Last year, the campaign was able to raise $400,000 in B.C. and this year, Schratter believes the ride can raise $750,000.
BJ Quinn has been following Schratter since his initial cycle in 2010 and finds him inspiring.
“I think he is phenomenal,” said Quinn. “He’s a wonderful person and his work has opened up a lot of doors.”
This year, there will be 13 locations in B.C. participating in the ride. Salmon Arm will be hosting a 10-km family cycle as well as a 32- km advanced cycle. The rides will start and finish at the Little Mountain Sports Complex. To register, go to www.ridedonthide.com.