His quest to destroy the stigma of mental illness took him around the world, but this week a Vernon man diagnosed with bipolar disorder was back in his hometown sharing his inspirational message with kids.
In 2010 Michael Schratter set out on a 40,000 kilometer bicycle journey that would take him through 33 countries on six continents. Schratter was hoping to make a point with his 16 month solo trek. He was looking to bust the myth that people with mental illnesses are weak or don’t have willpower.
This week Schratter was back in his hometown of Vernon speaking to a grade seven class at Harwood Elementary School. His outreach to classrooms aimed at re-writing the story of mental illness.
“What’s happening is the high functioning professionals, people that are dealing with a mental illness or have dealt with a mental illness, stay quiet because they don’t want to be associated with the negative portrayal that’s so often seen in Hollywood and in the media,” said Schratter.
Teacher Karyn Jantz says it’s an inspiring message for her students.
“He has conquered the world on a bicycle,” said Jantz. “They kind of understand that yes, it is okay for them to experience stress and anxiety but it’s also incredible to be able to overcome it and still be a functioning person in society.”
Schratter’s global trek has inspired an annual biking event called Ride Don’t Hide. This year, 20 Ride Don’t Hide events are scheduled for June 22nd in communities across Canada including Penticton, Kelowna, Vernon and Salmon Arm. The money raised from Ride Don’t Hide goes towards Canadian Mental Health Association programs for children and families.