Ten provinces, six time zones and over 7,500 kilometres.
Western alumnus Martin Bauman is preparing to cycle across Canada on June 7th to help end the stigma against mental health, particularly depression.
Having graduated in the class of 2015 from Western's media theory and production broadcast journalism program, Bauman says his inspiration for the trip largely came from witnessing his friends and family touched by mental illness.
"It was something that I became aware of pretty early on in life as a 10 year old," Bauman said. "I was having a sleepover with a friend, and that night my parents had to leave the house – my cousin had gone missing. He was an older cousin of mine, 22, 23 years old ... and later that night it turned out that my cousin had taken his life. That was really my first introduction to what suicide was and what happens when somebody's mental health goes unchecked, and those sort of warning cries are missed."
Growing up, Bauman also encountered mental illness after both his father and a close friend disclosed their struggles to him. According to Bauman, learning of their experiences was a real wake-up call for him that being aware of warning signs is crucial for getting people the help they need.
These experiences would inspire Bauman to bring awareness to the issues of mental illness so that others who may be experiencing hardship are encouraged to seek support.
As for why he's choosing to bike across Canada, Bauman explains that a love for travel and exposure to a similar event, Ride for Refuge, linked the three concepts together.
"I was talking to a family friend about why he was doing the ride (Ride for Refuge)," Bauman said. "I just asked him, 'What are you doing out there, what motivates you to do this ride?' and he said, 'Sometimes it can be a little challenging to know what to do when there are problems of this scope. It seems like it's almost hard to make a difference,' but he felt that riding was one small way that he could make a tangible difference, and for whatever reason that really stuck with me."
The cross-country trip is a part of the Mood Disorders Society of Canada's Defeat Depression campaign that allows 75 per cent of each project's funds to be allocated to a local cause, with the remaining 25 per cent aimed at national campaigns.
Bauman has chosen the Waterloo-Wellington-Dufferin branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association – his local branch – as the local cause to benefit from his ride. As of 7 p.m. on May 28, Bauman has raised $7,925 of his targeted $10,000.
"Fundraising has been tremendous, I'm really overwhelmed with the response I've got so far." Bauman said. "It's been such a humbling experience to see people – total strangers – come forward and offer donations, wishing me luck, and also just beyond fundraising people offering their homes to stay at for the night."
Bauman will be following the trip laid out by Steve Langston's 72-day itinerary for crossing the country on a bicycle, found online at Canada by Bicycle. The trip has him starting in Vancouver on June 7 and crossing all 10 provinces, landing in St John's at the very end of August.
Though he admits he's not what he'd describe as a traditional cyclist, Bauman is confident he'll be able to complete the trip based on the six months of training he's been through starting in December and his youth, being only 23.
While advocacy on this scale is new to Bauman, the process has been rewarding.
"It's been a very different experience to champion a cause, but it's one I'm very, very honoured to be a part of and certainly don't regret any bit of uncomfortableness that may come with talking about the past," Bauman said.
"Even if it means one person's more willing to seek out the help that they need, if they're willing to tell a parent or a loved one that they're depressed or that they could use help, that would be success to me."
Bauman also emphasized his excitement to meet people along his trip and connecting with them through their stories to further reduce the stigma associated with depression.
Those wishing to donate to Bauman's trip or follow his planned blog and photo updates can visit his website.