Hunting Hills Bike-a-thon raises over $32,000

It isn’t easy, but students at Hunting Hills High School are breaking the stigma around mental health one revolution at a time.

On Thursday, more than 400 students,100 staff and 50 other community members kicked off the annual 24-hour bike-a-thon which is once again raising awareness and thousands of dollars for Vantage Community Services, the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre, and the school division’s Step Up program.

Grade 12 student and event co-chair Dana Im said everyone is affected my mental illness in one way or another.

“When all of us are biking for one cause, that’s when the stigma starts to break,” said Im. “It has changed since I was in grade nine; I have seen a change in all students, and through all the things we’ve been through, I feel like we have broken that stigma.”

Over the last several years, Hunting Hills students and staff have had to cope with a number of cases of suicide, which spurred the event’s creation in the first place. Jon Davies, the school’s Leadership teacher, said students have been resilient in the face of some considerable tough circumstances.

“There are struggles day to day or year to year. I don’t know if I’d say that we’ve bounced back, but we work through our experiences,” he said. “Mental health is probably the defining issue of these teenagers. They probably understand it better than we do, and they realize how important it is to take a leading role in it. Every year of this event is incredibly inspiring.”

Thalia Andasol, another of the event’s co-chairs, agrees that the event is making a huge difference.

“This is making students at our school know that they can talk and be heard, and that everyone has a struggle,” she said. “l think I’m one of those students who has difficulty expressing things, so I’d say don’t wait until the last minute to find someone, even if you don’t think there’s anyone who wants to listen.”

To participate in the bike-a-thon, every student had to raise a minimum $50. The early total raised is over $32,000.

If you or someone you know need mental health-related assistance, here are a few resources:

Psychologists’s Association of Alberta

1-888-424-0297

Distress Centre

403-266-4357

Canadian Mental Health Association – Central Alberta Division (Red Deer)

Vantage Community Services (Red Deer)

Primary Care Network (Red Deer)

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