Ryan Phillips has definitely chosen to ride instead of hide.
The Lower Mainland resident rode into Salmon Arm Thursday, June 7, and took a break for an afternoon interview before returning to his cross-country bicycle trek the following morning.
A former professional hockey player who played a season with the Vernon Vipers (1995/96), Phillips’ current journey, across not just Canada but around the world, is fuelled by a determination to raise awareness about mental health.
“I suffered from bipolar which is a debilitating disease. Recently I’ve gone to medication and my life has taken a turn for the absolute better. (That’s why) why I am riding this ride, for the purpose of helping inspire people who suffer from mental health illness of any different kind,” said Phillips.
He said his ride began at the Terry Fox monument in Victoria. As of Friday, he had logged approximately 750 kilometres, choosing to ride through Penticton, Kelowna and Vernon before stopping in Salmon Arm.
“We took the long way, but it’s OK. It made me strengthen my legs a little bit,” laughed Phillips. “You really get to see B.C. in all its beauty.”
The idea to ride around the world was inspired by Phillips’ recent journey through Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.
“That was really cool and I knew at that point, if I was going to do a ride, I wanted to do it for a purpose and as soon as I got back to Canada (I said) ‘I’m going to do the world,’” said Phillips. “I really love challenges. Maybe that stems from my hockey career.”
Phillips’ message to those suffer with mental health issues is to not be afraid to reach out.
“Anybody who is suffering—reach out,” he said. “There is help. If I can do it, you can do it.”
Phillips noted Salmon Arm residents can do their own riding for mental health awareness in the annual Canadian Mental Health Association Shuswap-Revelstoke’s Ride Don’t Hide event Saturday, June 23.
Registration for the event, to be held at the Little Mountain Sports Complex and park, is already underway. More information can be found at the CMHA website.