At City Bicycle Co, physical fitness is just one of the benefits we enjoy from biking. Mental health, while a little more complicated and perhaps not as popular a discussion topic, is just as important. That’s why we were happy to be a part of Stigma Free 2015, a mental health fair serving the needs of local youth. The event was presented by Sacramento County’s Mental Illness: It’s Not Always What You Think project, and took place on Saturday, May 9th at the Clunie Community Center in McKinley Park.
Our City Bicycle Co. team got involved because we love the idea of getting kids on bikes. We usually focus on donating our bikes to raffles and giveaways that benefit college students, so we were happy to be presented with the opportunity to donate to younger, high school-age kids facing difficult challenges. Enriching a young person’s life with the joys of biking is potentially more impactful, especially for teens struggling with mental illness during a critical developmental period. Their daily lives can be difficult, and winning a bike can bring a lot of much-needed joy. Additionally, since kids coping with mental illnesses may be dealing with the stigmas surrounding their disorders, having a bike gives them literal and metaphorical freedom. Bikes are empowering in that they provide a practical form of transportation, as well as the feeling that they have something that belongs to them, and gives them control over their environment. We hope that while biking, kids will be able to embrace the outdoors, as well as their independence.
The Stigma Free event addressed many mental health challenges faced by teenagers, including anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. Throughout the event, two messages became clear: mental illnesses are common – one in five youths experience some sort of mental health issue – and it can be difficult to get help due to stigmas created by people who simply don’t understand mental illness. The mood at the fair, which attracted high school students and community advocates, was positive and open. We were inspired by the interactive selfie wall called the “Wall of Hope,” which included encouraging messages from kids like, “Wish it, Dream it, Do it!” and “You are not alone.” It was great to see kids supporting each other and creating a culture of trust and openness.
As we have grown our business over the last couple years, we’ve enjoyed having our bikes embraced by bike lovers across the nation. Still, there’s something even more rewarding and impactful about being connected to our local community in Sacramento. For more information on the initiative to support youths facing mental illness, visit: http://www.stopstigmasacramento.org/