Through a series of coast-to-coast cycles organised for World Suicide Prevention Day, Cycle Against Suicide is reframing men’s views on masculinity and mental health.
The national suicide prevention charity, Cycle Against Suicide, is calling for supporters and their sons, fathers, husbands, friends, and colleagues to get involved and spread the message: ‘It’s okay not to feel okay, and absolutely okay to ask for help’.
Three quarters of Ireland’s suicide victims are male, statistics show, and Cycle Against Suicide aims to fight against mental-health stigma.
A series of cycles is planned for Bike4Life to mark World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September. The goal is to spread the message to men of all ages that asking for help is never a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.
In Ireland in 2019, a total of 300 men died by suicide.
Better mental-health literacy can prevent deaths, helping Irish men to express their feelings and seek support, the charity has said.
Stigma starts early
Cycle Against Suicide points out that the stigma around mental health starts early. Many young Irish men don’t seek help because of worries about social exclusion, self-image, or perceived masculine responsibilities, studies show.
Middle-aged men are at currently at highest risk of suicide in Ireland, while this country has the fourth-highest suicide rate in Europe for males aged 15-24. A rising population of older men living alone are also at risk.
The coast-to-coast Dublin-Galway cycling route organised by Cycle Against Suicide is a challenging 220km cycle spread over two days – which can be done at a leisurely or fast pace.
Cyclists are grouped according to ability, catering to speeds of 18 to 25km/h.
An overnight camp at Portlick Scout campsite in Co Westmeath is all part of the fun, with music as well as mental-health talks on awareness and tackling stigma.
Supporters may also pre-register for a virtual, fully-interactive, coast-to-coast cycle taking place from World Suicide Prevention Day until World Mental Health Day (10 September to 10 October).
Cork Spin-Off is a fun, family-friendly event which will start and finish at Marina Market, Cork, on 3 September.
Following a 42km cycle, Cycle Against Suicide will host a mental-health awareness event at the market, with talks and music, highlighting local supports, while free on-site counselling will be available, all with the goal of demystifying mental wellbeing.
Pedal through Portugal!
For fit and intrepid cyclists, the Portuguese end-to-end bike ride will be a thrilling challenge.
From 30 September to 7 October, participants will bike across sun-soaked landscapes and rolling vineyards, in fresh temperatures that are perfect for cycling.
For advanced cyclists with a minimum speed of 23km/h, this will be a challenging 750km event not to be missed.
Cycle Against Suicide wants to set wheels in motion for positive mental health, particularly in middle-aged and older men — the demographics most at risk of suicide.
Its message is that “it’s really okay to ask for help”.
Treating depression through exercise
While suicide is a complex issue, it can be prevented, the charity says. Its education in schools, communities and workplaces helps people find support, look after each other, and build resilience to deal with mental-health struggles.
Taking exercise, such as cycling, is one of the most effective ways to treat depression, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland has found.
If your community has been affected by suicide and you want Cycle Against Suicide to help, please contact email@example.com.
If you or someone you know is struggling, please contact a Cycle Against Suicide Buddy.
Those who wish to train in a peer-support programme can find more information at: https://www.cycleagainstsuicide.com/register-to-become-community-buddy/