Clara's Big Ride for Bell Let's Talk arrives on Parliament Hill: Clara Hughes completes her epic journey to create a stigma-free nation

  • Cycling around Canada for 110 days, Clara shared the goal of a nation free of the stigma around mental illness with Canadians in communities everywhere
  • More than 11,000 kilometres, 105 communities, 235 events in every province and territory
  • Clara welcomed to Parliament Hill at 1:05 pm by the Honourable Shelly Glover for Canada Day celebrations
  • Clara to be welcomed to Rideau Hall later today by Their Excellencies Governor General David Johnston and Mrs. Sharon Johnston
  • Drop by Clara's Celebration Plaza in Major's Hill Park to learn more about the incredible journey of Clara Hughes

OTTAWA, July 1, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - Canadian Olympian and mental health champion Clara Hughes rides into Ottawa today to complete her epic 110-day cycling journey around the country, sharing the message that together we can achieve a nation free of the stigma around mental illness.

Over more than 11,000 kilometres, through 105 communities in all 10 provinces and all 3 territories, Clara's Big Ride for Bell Let's Talk engaged Canadians of all kinds in the national conversation about mental health. Clara was welcomed to more than 150 community gatherings and 80 school and youth events from coast to coast to coast - hearing the stories of thousands of Canadians touched by mental illness, and sharing the facts of her own struggle with depression.

"Happy Canada Day and thank you everyone for your incredible support! My journey around this great country has shown me that Canadians everywhere are ready to talk about mental health and eager to make a difference," said Clara. "So many wonderful, open and welcoming people, from Canada's big cities to the small settlements of the North, communities in every province and territory - all sharing the dream of a stigma-free Canada, a place where those who struggle aren't afraid to ask for help."

"1 in 5 will experience mental illness, but the number affected by the disease is 1 in 1. We all know someone impacted, whether in our families, our workplaces or our neighbourhoods. The Big Ride has shown me that talking openly about mental illness, learning that we are all affected in some way, just destroys the stigma. It's the first step in moving mental health forward. Now, let's keep talking Canada and achieve the world's first nation free of the stigma around mental illness!"

Most people who struggle with mental illness will suffer in silence for fear of being judged or rejected because of the continuing stigma around the disease. By talking openly and supportively about mental illness, as so many have done with Clara and their communities during the Big Ride, we can finally break the lingering stigma and truly move Canada's mental health forward.

As Clara circled the country meeting Canadians in communities everywhere, more than 160 elected officials and leaders at all levels of government signed a commitment map carried by Clara throughout the Ride, pledging their communities to building a stigma-free Canada.

"The Bell Let's Talk campaign is helping to shatter the stigma of mental illness one text at a time, one voice at a time and one conversation at a time," said The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health. "Clara's journey over the last few months has inspired more people to speak openly about their personal struggles with mental illness. Thank you, Bell Canada, for spearheading this work, and thank you, Clara, for being the brave face of this campaign."

Clara at Rideau Hall
After celebrations on Parliament Hill, Clara will visit the It's An Honour! cross-Canada travelling exhibit at Rideau Hall with Their Excellencies the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada and Mrs. Sharon Johnston. The exhibit introduces visitors to the Canadian Honours System which recognizes extraordinary Canadians who have been honoured for their achievements, including Clara, who is an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Yesterday, after riding into Arnprior with Clara and the Big Ride team, the Governor General presented Clara with the Meritorious Service Cross (Civil Division) in recognition of her work as an advocate for mental health and the success of Clara's Big Ride.

The Clara's Big Ride team
"I'm grateful to the tens of thousands of Canadians - public officials, volunteers, teachers and so many young people - who have committed to making their communities and the entire country stigma free," said Clara. "My thanks go out to all of you, and to everyone who made the Big Ride a reality - our support riders, everyone on the Big Ride support team, our Community Champions, our National Partners. The Big Ride couldn't have happened without all of you!"

"We are all so proud of Clara and how she has engaged Canadians everywhere in creating a stigma-free nation. The Big Ride team offers special thanks to all our Community Champions who organized the more than 200 community and school events that welcomed Clara on her journey, promoting the anti-stigma message at the grassroots level in every corner of the country," said Mary Deacon, Chair of Bell Let's Talk. To learn more about Clara's events and the Big Ride Community Champions who made them happen, please visit Bell.ca/ClarasBigRide.

Clara's Big Ride was powered by our National Partners - Aimia, BMO, Canadian Tire, Cisco, Lundbeck, President's Choice and Samsung - who provided significant support for the Ride. For more information, please visit Bell.ca/ClarasBigRide/Partners.

Clara's Celebration Plaza
Visit Clara's Celebration Plaza in Ottawa today at Major's Hill Park starting at 10 am to celebrate the Big Ride and learn how you can help create a stigma-free Canada. See the extensive collection of gifts, artifacts and mementos from around the country that have been given to Clara during her Big Ride, and enjoy the entertainment on the Bell Stage.

You can also visit Bell.ca/ClarasBigRide or follow the latest Ride news on Twitter at @Bell_LetsTalk or on Facebook at Facebook.com/BellLetsTalk. To learn more about how you can continue the conversation about mental health, please visit Bell.ca/LetsTalk.

Bell Let's Talk
Bell Let's Talk promotes Canadian mental health with national awareness and anti-stigma campaigns, like Clara's Big Ride for Bell Let's Talk and Bell Let's Talk Day, and significant Bell funding of community care and access, research, and workplace initiatives. To learn more, please visit Bell.ca/LetsTalk.

SOURCE Bell Canada



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