The first step to helping prevent this is acknowledging that it is a problem in the first place, and reducing the social stigma surrounding mental illness. Encouraging people to open up about the demons they are battling, so that they can receive support from those around them, and are more comfortable with the idea of seeking professional help if need be.
This is the motivation behind TourXOz, a not-for-profit organisation that encourages cyclists to challenge themselves physically and mentally by riding relay across Australia to raise awareness about mental health and much needed funds for the cause. These funds go to the Black Dog Institute, a translational research institute that researches, diagnoses and treats mood disorders and depression. This year Versent is proudly pledging its support, both financially and by sending its own riders along on the journey.
On Saturday the 16th of September, myself and four other adventurous employees (James Coxon, Lucas Chan, Veronica Mazourova, Jaime Munera) will be joining approximately 60 other cyclists as we begin our 8-day endurance ride from Perth to Broome, traveling 2400km along the beautiful coast of Western Australia.
I have been around bikes for as long as I can remember; first in a sling on my dad’s back as he rode places, then on a bike of my own with its rickety little training wheels, to riding a full-sized mountain bike that has taken me up and down Mt Kosciusko (Australia’s highest mountain). But despite all the challenging things I have done on a bike, none of them have been as difficult as just the preparation for this ride. We haven’t even started the ride yet, but it turns out that training for 6 hours of cycling per day, for 8 days straight, is actually quite hard.
It’s not just hard to train your muscles to ride for that long, it’s hard to train your mind to be able to deal with that level of monotony and exhaustion for hours on end without giving up. It’s hard to buy the right food, and prepare the right meals, so that your body has the fuel it needs to keep going, because no matter how badly you might want to keep going, if you haven’t been eating the right food then your body will simply stop once it reaches a certain point. Perhaps most of all, it’s hard to find the time to train.
But it’s all worth it. The saddle sores, the chaffing buttocks, the long days at work after a morning, or an evening, or a weekend of riding, the hobbies, and habits that have had to be sacrificed or put on hold to free up our time. All of it is worth it to be able to go on such an amazing trip, to contribute to such an amazing cause, and in the end, to be proud of ourselves that we have overcome such an amazing challenge.
I’m here to encourage and support my fellow riders, to raise awareness and funds in honor of the friends I have who suffer every day from mental illness, and to help myself grow and be a better person than I was a year ago, or even a week ago. If you have any words of encouragement for the riders or want to share with us the story of your own struggle with mental illness, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hearing from the people we are working to help, will make it that much easier to motivate ourselves to train during these final few weeks.
If you wish to donate in support of our ride, TourXOz, and the Black Dog Institute, you can do so here: https://www.gofundme.com/versent-tourozx-for-mental-health
Thank you for the support!
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