Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ride Don't Hide

Mike Schratter.  What do I remember of Mike Schratter?  He was a year behind me at school.  He played the clarinet.  Strawberry blonde hair, freckles, a little hyper.

That's what I remember about Mike.  I remember his parents better.  His Mom was my junior high school math and geometry teacher.  His dad was my college calculus professor.  His parents took me to a play once.  I have no idea how many of their students they took on such excursions, but I felt pretty special being asked.  I did really well in calculus until the final exam.  I never did look into what happened.  I think I was too embarassed.  I passed the class but didn't take a higher math again.  In 1997, Mike's dad, Jack, died in a bike accident.  It was tragic.

After high school graduation, I remember hearing that things weren't going so well between Mike and his parents.  It was one of those situations where my mother heard something from someone and passed it along to me.  I didn't pay too much attention.  I felt bad for them all, but I didn't know any details and I was busy with my life. 

I'd seen Mike's name on Facebook recently, but not knowing him too well, and not having kept in touch, I didn't "friend" him.  Until this week.  After my post on noticing depression, a friend asked if I'd heard what Mike was doing for mental health awareness and sent me a link.   Mike, of all things, is riding his bike around the world!!  Having dealt with depression and ADHD, attempting suicide and being diagnosed with hypomania, Mike (a grade 5 teacher from Vancouver) decided to open the world's eyes to mental illness and to let people know that it's a disease, like any other.  And what a way to do it!

Last week, for his efforts, Mike won the very first Nancy Hall Public Policy Leadership Award.  Way to go, Mike!  Putting a real face on mental illness helps in so many ways.  Let's get rid of this stigma that still lingers in our society.

I'm hoping to be able to catch up with Mike when he is in Edmonton on October 3 and 4th.  Although my efforts to educate about depression and anxiety have not taken me on a trip around the world, and have also not put me in the public spotlight, I like to think that Mike and I have something in common - wanting to open up eyes to mental illness and spread understanding. 

I now feel a bond with this man that I never did with the boy at school. 

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