Noelle Montcalm is a Canadian Olympic athlete and specializes in the 400-meter hurdles. She competed for Canada in 2016, in Rio, for her Olympic debut. Noelle attended the University of Windsor and studied Collaborative Nursing BScN. We are very proud to have Noelle Montcalm as an ambassador for Ride Don’t Hide.

Whether you know someone who has faced challenges with their mental health, or through your own personal story, we have all been affected by mental illness in some way.

It is no wonder, we all have a head on our shoulders and we all have a brain inside that head. We ALL have mental health, just as we all have physical and emotional health needs. Getting support for mental health issues should be no different than treating a broken arm or diabetes. Each of us requires strong mental health in order to ensure overall wellness because our mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and social domains are all intertwined, which means keeping them balanced is extremely important for overall wellbeing.

Sometimes, holding that head up on my shoulders seems like a tough task. Like I am trying to support the weight of the world. It is easy to let negative thoughts and self-doubt inside my head to continually grow until eventually these feelings manifest into something much greater than what could be quieted by self-belief, positive support, and asking for assistance where needed. It is often the silence that is so much louder than words spoken.

I find that a great deal of the stigma surrounding mental health is actually inside our own heads! Will people think less of me? Will my friends exclude me? Will my family think there is something “wrong” with me? However, all of these amazing people just want the best for you and would do anything to help you in any way they could! When you realize that, it becomes much easier to continue the conversation surrounding your own mental health needs. However, as always, the first step is often the most difficult.

My story and reason I am involved with CMHA’s Ride Don’t Hide is two-fold. As an elite athlete, I am not without my own experiences of anxiety, stress, and self-doubt due to performance pressures, and I have several family members who have been victims of their own mental health issues.

I train in my sport six days a week, ten months out of the year, working on my technical and physical skills. I travel a lot and am often times inside my own little bubble. I have been afforded a great opportunity in my life through sport, however the lifestyle can also become quite lonely, and that is why the noise in my head can seem loud and overwhelming at times. I am expected to perform every time the gun signals the start of the race, naturally creating a great deal of stress, which for the most part I use in a positive way in order to fuel me, but on the other hand, it can make me question my abilities at times when things don’t go according to plan. This is why working on the mental aspect of the game is equally as important in order to be able to compete at my best and against the best in the world. Remaining positive and surrounding myself with a positive support system that believes in me has been extremely important for helping me to believe in myself and push the self-doubt away.

Another reason I have become involved in Ride Don’t Hide, is in support of both my dad and my uncle, who died by suicide 16 months apart after unfortunately losing their battles with their own mental health issues. My world was rocked through experiencing this, and I truthfully am still figuring out ways to deal and understand. Through experiencing this, I have become even more aware of the need to talk about mental health, as well as lending an ear to those who need to express their struggles.

A positive side effect of being involved in sport on a daily basis, is that physical activity is a great way to combat the stress I face in other aspects of my life. Physical activity can positively affect your own wellbeing, through the connection between our mental and physical health and is a great way to break the vicious cycle that can exist between the two. When our bodies are moving and feeling good, so too is the mind. Through your participation in Ride Don’t Hide, an increase in overall wellbeing can be achieved through getting the body moving!

In addition, the sense of connection that can be gained through participation in the Ride Don’t Hide event is another contributor to increasing overall wellbeing. Developing strong relationships creates a sense of self and connectedness to the community, and this event is a great way to feel part of a team that is working toward a common goal of raising awareness for mental health. This positive support with like-minded people, can further enhance your wellbeing and promote a sense of self-worth.

I have been involved with the CMHA for a short time now, doing my part to raise awareness of mental health and to help end the stigma. I challenge you to join a Ride Don’t Hide event in your community, whether alone because you enjoy cycling, with a friend because you support his mental health needs, or as a team in memory of a loved one. I am excited to again join the event and meet some amazing people, who will be encouraging others to help break the stigma as well.

One of my favourite quotes, and one I continually turn to read: “Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” I believe it is continuing to put forth your best, despite any setbacks that may temporarily derail you, be it physical, mental, or external, that matters in the end.