Optometrist pedals through depression, leads others for the cause

Ride Don’t Hide bike rides start, end at Windsor Park

Their name is part ska band, part 1970s bike cruisers, but make no mistake Shaggy and the Rat Traps are a 2019 cycling team.

Led by Dr. Neil Paterson, an Oak Bay optometrist and a mental health advocate, the Rat Traps boasted 118 riders at last year’s Ride Don’t Hide event for Canadian Mental Health Association. This year Paterson is aiming for 50 members when the team rolls up at the Ride Don’t Hide starting grounds of Windsor Park on Sunday, June 23.

READ MORE: Ride Don’t Hide takes on personal meaning for ‘Real Dandy’ team

The seventh annual ride has various levels starting at seven kilometres, 18km, 28km, 50km and a 100km ride. There’s also a 5km walk.

Paterson became involved with the ride four years ago but has lived with bipolar disorder since his first bout with extreme depression in university. As an optometrist with Oak Bay Optometry, Paterson hopes being a professional face in Oak Bay will help others to let go of the stigma and inhibitions that come with openly discussing and recognizing mental health.

“The whole idea is to normalize mental health trouble, and that’s what I do,” Paterson said. “I’m bipolar, and that’s the way it is.”

Anyone who registers for the ride is invited join Paterson’s team Shaggy and the Rat Traps.

“I’m pretty sure everyone wants to be on the Rat Traps, or should be, at some point in their life,” he said.

Paterson has lived through three big depressions in his life and has practised optometry 30 years. He can see his own depression coming like a wave on the horizon. He can also recognize when a manic swing is coming.

READ ALSO: Ride Don’t Hide hits the road through Greater Victoria

“I know if it’s coming, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. With mania, you brace for it and ride the wave.”

Medicine helps. But people also need to be more open about their mental health, and the mental health of others.

“We need to be well aware of the medications and keep on top of it,” he said. “Take your mental pulse, check in with yourself on an ongoing basis.”

In the throws of his third major episode of depression, Paterson was able to you realize it would go eventually away.

“Between the downs there’s ups, which are great, you get a lot done,” he said. “The baseline is nasty, but with medicine now the ups aren’t as up as they could be and the downs aren’t as down as they could be.”

Joining the Victoria ride this year is the Ride Don’t Hide originator Michael Schratter, who started the ride movement in 2010. A teacher and writer from Vancouver, Schratter has bipolar disorder and wanted to help break down the stigma surrounding mental health – one pedal stroke at a time. In 2010 he took on a global endeavor and cycled over 40,000km through 33 counties, crossing six continents and raising $100, 000 for Canadian Mental Health Association.

This year Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps are both supporting and introducing the Ride Don’t Hide. Registration was nearing 300 riders and has already raised $67,000. Organizers are hoping to reach last year’s number of 447 riders who raised more than $120,000 for mental health programming in Victoria.

Other ambassadors for the ride include former track cycling Olympian Gillian Carleton and former rowing Olympian Silken Laumann.

For more information visit ridedonthide.com.

reporter@oakbaynews.com


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