Why I Ride: Neil Paterson
Neil Paterson is the fearless leader, and captain of Shaggy and The Rat Traps, a team that has participated and raised fund for Ride Don’t Hide since 2016. Neil is looking to celebrate CMHA’s 100th year Anniversary with a team of a 100 people at this year’s Ride Don’t Hide! As someone who experiences the challenges of mental health issues, Neil is an unstoppable force who continues to remain positive.
As a seasoned cyclist, Neil often rode his bike to help him through some difficult times. While he was undergoing what he remembers as a “deep and prolonged depression,” a good friend suggested that Neil become involved with a cycling program called Ride Don’t Hide. It is in 2016 that Dave Secco proposed the idea and it is when the team “Shaggy, and The Rat Traps” was born. Neil explains that being a part of the day ” is a really nice way to spend a Sunday morning; It’s good exercise while being surrounded by friends and family to support a wonderful cause.” An event where anything can happen, the most memorable moment for Neil was when “Gillian Carlton stopped at the halfway point in the 28 km ride to greet every rider. Everyone was so excited to meet her “she’s a role model, an Olympic medalist, and a hero.”
Mental illness has impacted Neil in different ways and he notes that is has been “a colossal waste of time in my life.” As someone who faces the challenges of Bipolar, he felt as though he had lost years to depression and “When I’m not mentally healthy I’m not really living. I’m 56, but I’ve only lived about 45 of those years. Ride Don’t Hide has given me a place to try and pull a positive out of my own patchy mental health.”
Not only does Ride Don’t Hide provide a day to support awareness but it plays a pivotal role in funding different programs that The Canadian Mental Health Association provides. It’s through the efforts of team’s like Shaggy and The Rat Traps which make it a successful day and fundraiser. This year Neil and his troupe have set a goal to raise $10,000 and are nearly halfway there.
It is events like Ride Don’t Hide that builds supportive communities and changes people’s perceptions of mental illness. “People are far more open and accepting of mental health issues than they were even five years ago.” It is essential that communities be open, accepting and outspoken. No one should suffer or feel the effects of their challenges alone. “The stigma of mental illness and living with a mental illness is tough enough. Trying to hide it is even harder. “Coming out” as having a mental illness is a personal choice, but I’m an advocate for doing so. My mental illness is part of who I am, I’ve accepted it. I’m colour blind, cross-eyed, I have male pattern baldness, and I’m bipolar. Whenever a patient mentions they are taking a medication for mental illness, I respond with the meds I take. Patients see this as normalizing their mental illness.”
Though it may be difficult at times to be open about our mental challenges, Neil’s advice for those who may be suffering or are unsure of what to do next is to simply “come out.” “If you are in a position where you can I urge you to do so, it simplifies everything.”
Do you need a team for the ride? You’re in luck! Shaggy and the Rat Traps tram are recruiting! As the Team Captain, Neil is looking to celebrate CMHA’s 100th year Anniversary with a team of a 100 people! So gear up and join Neil in reaching his goal of 100 riders for CMHA’s 100th year!
Neil is part of the Victoria Ride Don’t Event this June 24th.
This is why Neil Paterson rides, why will you ride?