Riding for mental health

Less than a year after he was preparing to end his life, Tyler Waddell has completed a 2,500-kilometre bike ride that began in Kelowna, all to raise awareness about mental health struggles.

And he's just getting started.

Over the past 45 days, the 35 year old has pedalled from Kelowna to Vancouver Island, up through Whistler and into the Cariboo, before ferrying from Prince Rupert across to Haida Gwaii.

“It's been amazing talking to people about their mental health all the way along, helping people, sharing stories. It's been life changing,” Waddell said from a ferry near Ketchikan, Alaska, on Tuesday.

Just 10 months ago, Waddell was in a dark place in Williams Lake. He was ready to end his life before he stepped in a pile of what he calls “divine intervention.”

“I was nearly going to end my life and I stepped in a pile of dog s**t,” Waddell said. “And I just started laughing and crying and thought, 'I can't die with poop on my shoes.' ... I went in and got the help I needed.”

After going to detox, Waddell was introduced to the Canadian Mental Health Association, who eventually helped him secure a bed at the Phoenix Treatment Centre in Surrey.

Wanting to give back, Waddell left Kelowna in early July on a $250 bicycle with a $100 bike trailer, all with the goal of spreading awareness about mental health and raising money for the CMHA.

Waddell says people have opened up to him about their own struggles. One conversation with a man in Lillooet two weeks into his trip stands out.

“He was going ... out to his family's cabin in Lillooet, heading out to end his life,” Waddell said. “He saw my sign, he pulled over and we talked for half an hour. I explained that I was at that point myself roughly a year ago ... He texts me now every once in a while and things are greatly improving in his life, so that was pretty powerful.”

He's now working to set up his own non-profit organization to help people with their mental health struggles in small communities across B.C. He's hoping to raise funds for the new project through a GoFundMe account, along with securing corporate sponsorships and grants.

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