Regina man uses cycling to start conversation on mental health

For Kelly Chimilar, cycling was a release before it became an obsession. 

Chimilar is one of roughly 200 people who participated in Sunday's Ride Don't Hide event. Those taking part in the event aim to promote mental health awareness while raising funds for mental health supports by taking part in a 100-kilometre bike ride near Regina.

Chimilar, who spoke with Saskatchewan Weekend's host Shauna Powers, said cycling used to help him calm what he called a "noisy" brain. But when he started isolating himself from family and friends to bike, he realized "something was up."

Screenshot/Kelly Chimilar/Strava Cyclist Profile

"Cycling is good. It clears your brain. It's good for your fitness, but over time, it sort of took over my life. It separated me from my family a little bit," he said.

"It made me reflect on what I'm compensating for. I'm trying to compensate for something in my life by doing more and more cycling." 

After speaking with his doctor and a psychologist, Chimilar was able to get the help he needs around his mental health — receiving medication and treatment to help calm his thoughts. 

He said while some days are still a challenge, he now bikes in part to ensure others can talk about their mental health and have an easier time reaching out for help. In his situation, he says the people around him didn't know anything was wrong. 

"It's not like a broken arm where you can see a broken bone or a cast on your arm. Nobody sees a broken brain," he said. "It just made me a lot more comfortable, just to be around people and to share my story."

"Every year when I do this, it feels just like a big, deep breath," he said.

Organized by the Canadian Mental Health Association, thousands of cyclists across the country join forces to raise awareness about mental health. Chimilar hopes others who may be living with mental illness can find the peace he's found.

"Finding the balance was the biggest thing," he said. "There's still days when I fight with it a little bit, but that's the biggest thing that sticks in my brain, it just balance. Balance with everything in life."

"Whether it's cycling, whether it's work, whether it's time with friends or a night out at a restaurant, it's all about the balance," he said. 

Supplied/Canadian Mental Health Association/Ride Don't Die

Alongside the 100-kilometre ride, the event also offered shorter routes for cyclists who wanted to take part without hours of pedalling. There was a five-kilometre route for children and families and a 30-kilometre route for intermediate cyclists. 

The website indicates the event surpassed its fundraising goal, raising roughly $2,000 more than its goal of $80,000.