Cycling and Mental Health Stigma

Many cyclists ride a bicycle because it is great for their well being.

I speak as someone that has experienced mental health issues. When you go through all this difficult stuff, sometimes you can be at rock bottom, cycling and sport in general, is a great way to get out to relieve all those annoying symptoms.

 I am not a medical person but cycling gives us with mental health issues some thing positive.  For some people with phobias, anxiety or depression, they can find it hard to get out in the first place. Anyway to get people out and socialise is  a good thing. They can also unleash their creative talents by doing photography or similar. Cycling opens up new opportunities.

 Despite my health, I cycled  from London to Paris for charity with 500,mostly serious  or ‘corporate’ cyclists. I did back out from the ‘gala meal’ at the end as it was too much for me, but I still came home with a medal and raised £1000 towards a £250,000 hospital unit. 

I had a nice meal  with a cyclist who was about 59 the other day.  He isn’t one of these cyclists who races  but he lives in a very rural location  Kent and pops into town nine miles away to do a bit of his shopping.   He was telling me about the loneliness he experiences in his village and how he has depression. As a rural cyclist as well, many of us are extremely isolated. There may be very limited social cycling groups in the area.  So I had spent a bit of time talking to them. It was great for him to open up, and I did my bit to help.

Yet there still stigma towards mental health in the cycling world.  Derogatory, old fashioned words are still being used towards cyclists with mental health conditions. Words such as ‘weak’ or ‘paranoid’ are being weaved around as if that is acceptable, with cyclists being afraid to stand for anyone who is vulnerable. Macho culture is still rife amongst cyclists. Men have the highest suicide rate in Britain and hence campaigners like Campaign against Living Miserably (CALM) tackles men’s mental health issues, so  many men cannot open up without fear of being seen as ‘weak’, although they think they are ‘survivors’.

Most of us with mental health conditions are actually strong after what we have been through. As an endurance cyclist, it is mind over matter. How can such a person be ‘weak?’?  We may get upset for a short time over something but overall we can be very strong and resilient and often highly successful people.  More cyclists really need to talk about cyclists attitudes towards mental health and stand up for those who need support and help prevent their health getting worse.

Cycling should be inclusive.

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Where to get help: MIND charity, Rethink Mental Illness, Campaign against Living Miserably, Samaritans, AnxietyUK.

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