Former professional cyclist Tyler Hamilton mingles with other riders are completing the ninth annual Berry Architecture Wellness Ride in support of the Canadian Mental Health Association—Central Alberta Region (CMHA) and the Central Alberta Brain Injury Society (CABIS). (Photo by Byron Hackett/ Advocate Staff)

Wellness ride helps promote awareness for mental health

Mental health is a tricky subject to navigate and few know the fight like Tyler Hamilton.

Hamilton, a former professional cyclist, has long battled with depression himself and has seen it affect several members of his family.

He was in Red Deer Saturday riding alongside 32 other cyclists to take part in the ninth annual Berry Architecture Wellness Ride in support of the Canadian Mental Health Association—Central Alberta Region (CMHA) and the Central Alberta Brain Injury Society (CABIS).

“Mental Illness has been in my family, it’s affected me personally,” said Hamilton, 46. “Mom, sister and grandmother. I was diagnosed with depression in 2003 and really didn’t know a whole lot about it back then. Ever since then I realized how important it is to recognize it and deal with it.”

Hamilton said it has been a long journey for a cyclist who in the 1990s was one of the top ranked in the world.

“I was on anti-depressants for 10 years. I’m no longer on them but it helped me through a tough period in my life. I still get dark days every once in a while, but now I know how to deal with it,” Hamilton said.

“Sometimes you just need your quiet moments. I think it’s important to talk about it. A lot of people, especially men have a hard time talking about it. Some people think it’s a sign of weakness.”

Together the cyclists raised more than $11,000 for the cause, something executive director with the CMHA Trish McAllister said is always great to see. McAllister said awareness of mental health issues needs to continue to grow in order to help end the stigma.

McAllister said with events like the ride, the barriers, especially in Central Alberta are being broken down slowly.

“When we look at breaking down some of the stigma around mental health, one of the ways we can do that is to start to encourage people to look at it as brain health,” McAllister said.

“It isn’t just mental health because there’s often a really negative stigma around that word. If we think of it from the overall perspective of brain health, there are so many things that go into it. Including concussions and brain injuries and mental health, how the chemicals in our brain are working and addiction.”

Hamilton said by sharing his own story and being a part of charity events, he hopes to make a difference.

“We still have a ways to go,” he said. “We all know somebody that is suffering. It’s nothing to feel ashamed about.”

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