Oak Bay optometrist Neil Paterson hopes to hit 100 riders on this Shaggy and the Rat Traps team in the Ride Don’t Hide cycling event June 24 in Oak Bay. (Christine van Reeuwyk/Oak Bay News)

Oak Bay optometrist challenges community to target 100 for Ride Don’t Hide

Annual event to raise funds, awareness for Canadian Mental Health Association June 24 in Windsor Park

When Neil Paterson pedals his third Ride Don’t Hide he plans to pull at least 99 Rat Traps with him.

The Oak Bay optometrist is an avid cyclist and supporter of the Canadian Mental Health Association event that raises funds and awareness.

Paterson has participated and been a top fundraiser for Ride Don’t Hide, tells the story of his own struggles and this year challenges the community join his team “Shaggy and The Rat Traps” where he hopes to have 100 riders in celebration of CMHA’s 100th birthday.

“Who doesn’t wanna be a rattrap once in their life,” he says with a laugh. “[CMHA] started to serve First World War veterans with what would be PTSD today and it’s never stopped. That’s an amazing accomplishment for any non-profit to hang in there for 100 years.”

He had his first “episode” in about 1992 and “two or three good whacks since then.”

“I was in my last big depression and a friend was helping me. He said ‘you should get involved in this’ and it’s been great. It’s been something positive to put negative energy towards,” Paterson says. “They run all these wonderful programs for people with mental health issues. I’m bipolar myself and when you have mental illness it’s just a part of who you are. You live with it, but when I’m mentally strong, I love to give back and try and help out.”

Paterson finds when he’s open about his struggles with mental wellness, particularly one-on-one working with the public as an optometrist, they open up.

“They go ‘ah’ and relax. It’s just a great leveller when people know one in five of us suffers depression in life,” Paterson says. “You get up and you put your pants on in the morning and you keep going if you can, and no judgments if you can’t.”

Events such as the Ride Don’t Hide help dispel lingering stigma, through both funding and awareness.

“This year we are hoping to have 500 0riders out, last year we had 350,” says Jocelyn de Montmorency, program manager for CMHA BC Division’s Victoria office. “We have a new venue this year, at Windsor Park in Oak Bay.”

The event has expanded as well: for the serious a 100 km ride as well as a 50 km, 28 km, 7 km for kids and family and a 5 km walk.

“We need to talk about our mental health. We need to share stories with one another, we need to stop hiding,” says de Montmorency

Ride Don’t Hide is June 24 starting at Windsor Park in Oak Bay. Register at ridedonthide.com.

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