By AHMED DIRIE
Michael Garron Hospital and Toronto Hustle are once again partnering to raise awareness and funds for mental health and the services provided in the city’s east end.
Building off the success of CRUSH COVID over the past two years, Ride for Mind will consist of a 24 hour-virtual cycling experience. The event will be streamed live from History Toronto, a new music and entertainment venue on Queen Street East in the Beach, from Friday, March 4 until Saturday, March 5.
Michael Garron Hospital has long helped those in the east end who require assistance maintaining their mental health, said Adina Hauser, Supervisor for the Child and Youth Mental Health Services, Transitional Youth Program and Paediatrics.
“Michael Garron Hospital already serves an area of the city that has a higher prevalence rate of mental health than the city average,” said Hauser. “We have high numbers of young people who access our emergency department for mental health issues.”
COVID-19 and the resulting closures and mandates have only added to the mental burden of many young Canadians, particularly those transitioning into adulthood who take part in the hospital’s programs.
“I think the pandemic has been especially hard on this population of youth, not only because of the school disruptions and work disruptions because of COVID-19,” said Hauser.
“Young people who already really struggled with, let’s say, their mood, or eating issues or other mental health issues have struggled even more so because of the pandemic due to major disruptions in services across the healthcare system.”
Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford, a founding member of Toronto Hustle, was very involved in partnering with the hospital to bring the CRUSH COVID and Ride for Mind events together.
“This was the brainchild of our Councillor, Brad Bradford, who’s a huge cyclist,” said Mitze Mourinho, President of the Michael Garron Hospital Foundation. “It was his idea a few years ago to do something like this.”
For Bradford and the hospital, the negative impact on mental health caused by the pandemic is something they felt within their community.
“Certainly what we’ve been through together as a community, as a city, and as a country has been very challenging over the past 24 months,” said Bradford. “Obviously those impacts are felt on our mental health. And there’s a number of studies that are already showing us that one-in-four Canadians are struggling with mental illness, and that’s been increasing even from 2020.”
Doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff are vulnerable as well, particularly those who aren’t able to work remotely.“The pandemic has taken its toll on people working in healthcare,” said Mourinho
“In many other businesses and industries people have been able to work from home. They don’t have to go into the office, they don’t have to go downtown, they don’t have to take the transportation to get it to work. They’ve been able to, in large part, stay home and be safe. Healthcare workers, not the same. They have not had the option to stay home. They’ve had to come in and expose themselves to COVID-19.”
Engaging in physical activity is a great way to boost mental health according to Bradford, and cycling is a low impact exercise perfect for those of all ages and fitness levels. “I think that there’s a relationship there,” he said. “You want to work out your body and you want to work out your mind.”
This will be the third event, following CRUSH COVID in 2020 and last year’s Ride for Mind that will raise funds for the hospital. So far, almost $700,000 has been raised from the rides, according to Mourinho.
The proceeds will allow Michael Garron Hospital to help youth navigate the complex mental healthcare system as well as the construction of the hospital’s state-of-the-art inpatient mental health facilities.
While there is a focus on cycling, the 24-hour event isn’t limited to that by any means.
“When we came up with the event we had people who were online and they weren’t cycling,” said Mourinho. “We had some that were walking and others running on the treadmill.”
This March’s Ride for Mind will be an evolution of last year’s version and will feature a hybrid component that will include in person activities that will adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines.
“We will be live on site at History, which is our new music venue down at Kingston Road and Queen Street, the Live Nation venue,” said Bradford. “We will have musical guests, we will have interviews, all of that will be streamed live from History. And for those who want to participate in person as per the public health guidelines, they will have an opportunity to set up a trainer and ride in the room and participate with people in person as well.”
Ride for Mind is open to all, and cyclists of all fitness levels are encouraged to participate.
To register to take part in this year’s Ride for Mind event or to support the cause, please visit www.rideformind.ca