Catching up with Clara Hughes
We got a chance to team up with Olympic speed-skating and cycling medalist Clara Hughes as she set off on a 110-day bicycling tour across Canada for Clara’s Big Ride. Since March, Clara has covered more than 12,000 km and cycled through every Canadian province and territory supporting Bell’s Let’s Talk. Before Clara’s Big Ride officially ends on Sunday, July 1, we sat down with the athlete to find out why she wants to grow awareness and acceptance surrounding mental illness, and take action to create a stigma-free Canada.
Tell us about Clara’s Big Ride and why this topic is so important to you.
Too many people suffer in silence due to the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Clara’s Big Ride for Bell Let’s Talk seeks to help end this stigma by taking the mental health conversation into 95+ communities across Canada. After my life in sport, I wanted to reach Canadians in a meaningful way to have this conversation, so I decided to take to the road with my bike and connect with Canadian in their local communities.
What are some of the best memories from your travels and what has the journey been like so far?
To call this journey epic would be an understatement. We have now traveled through all 10 Canadian provinces and three territories with this conversation, and each place has been unique in its own way. My best memories have been listening to stories from those whose lives have been touched by mental illness and witnessing people work through the struggle and finding a way to live a beautiful life.
When you stop in a community, what do you want everyone to take away after speaking to them?
If they are struggling, reach out to someone and if you see someone struggling, reach out to them – no one should have to feel alone. In each community we have visited there are excellent resources available for mental health issues. This conversation matters to Canadians and the support is there if someone needs it.
After your journey has ended, how can people keep the conversation going about mental illness and what can people do to stay involved?
I want people to know that being there for a friend who is struggling makes a big difference. By listening, or getting them the help they need is the best thing you can do sometimes. I have witnessed so many people doing amazing things in their communities for the mental health cause. There are organizations that you can give your time to, or if there is some change in the world you want to see, start making it happen. The Bell Let’s Talk website is an excellent place to begin.