The struggles of people who suffer from mental health problems are no laughing matter, but fun still can be had to raise awareness in the community and money for organizations that serve the mentally ill and their families.
That certainly was true for the hundreds of people who took part Monday in Bike 4 the Brain, a bicycling, walking and running event in Mission.
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About 500 people participated in this year’s event, said Ken Sonnenschein, a child psychiatrist and cyclist who started Bike 4 the Brain eight years ago.
Sonnenschein said that as a cyclist he had taken part in similar fundraisers over the years for just about “every aspect of the human condition” except mental health.
“They are silent illnesses that can’t be seen with an X-ray or blood test,” he said. “They are illnesses that are not openly discussed.” One of Bike 4 the Brain’s goals is to overcome the stigma that leads to that silence.
Matthew Bernstein of Olathe was one of those who enjoyed Monday’s event. Bernstein said he is a consumer of mental health services, and he thinks it is a great cause to raise awareness of mental health issues.
Bernstein said there are many misconceptions about mental illness. “People think everyone with a mental illness is in the hospital,” he said. “I’m taking classes at the KU Edwards campus. I’m volunteering. I’m just living my life.”
Over the last four years, Bike 4 the Brain has funded $52,500 in grants to organizations that provide mental health services. Many of those organizations were on hand Monday to share information about what they do.
Among those groups was the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault. Megan Corazzin said MOCSA has received Bike 4 the Brain grants because many of the people the group helps suffer from depression and related issues.
Sonnenschein said that the event has grown each year. This year’s event included bike rides of up to 70 miles, a non-competitive walk/run and the ever-popular spectacle of adults trying to ride child-size tricycles.
Juan Williams of Kansas City, North, was the first bicyclist to finish the 33-mile course Monday. Williams said it was his third year participating in Bike 4 the Brain.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Williams said. “It’s a challenging route. You get to meet a lot of people, and it’s a good way to give back to the community.”
Stephen Delgado of the Bike America racing team was at the event to help riders adjust their bicycles and ensure they had a comfortable ride. He said it was the fourth year that Bike America had taken part.
“We want people to have a good time so they’ll come back,” Delgado said.