NAMI Louisiana Welcomes Wheels for Mental Wellness
Updated: Oct 29, 2018
On October 24, 2018, NAMI Louisiana was proud to meet with Katie Dyer and Yoshie Fujimoto Kateada, two kindhearted individuals with a passion for making differences in the lives of others. We sat down to talk about the story behind their current campaign, Wheels for Mental Wellness, to raise awareness for Mental Health First Aid. Mental Health First Aid is a training program that teaches members of the public how to help a person developing a mental health problem, experiencing a worsening of an existing mental health problem or in a mental health crisis. In order to learn more about mental health to take back to their communities, they met with us, along with other mental health organizations, to gather firsthand information about mental illness and the work these organizations are doing to combat the stigma.
Part fundraising mission and part personal challenge, Wheels for Mental Wellness became an idea that has taken Katie and Yoshie (and their bikes) across the country. Yes, you read that correctly. Though neither would formally define themselves as trained cyclists, the pair have bicycled an average of 80 miles per day!
However, both Katie and Yoshie are no strangers to a little adventuring. Currently instructors for both Voyageur Outward Bound School and Baltimore Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound Schools, they work to challenge students to step outside of their comfort zones through outdoor education programs that help them to discover more about themselves. In fact, it was through the Voyageur Outward Bound School that the two met each other last summer!
So what made them decide to take on a bicycle ride across the country to raise awareness for Mental Health First Aid? Both Yoshie and Katie stated simply that the idea was a challenge for themselves. As instructors that focus on helping their students grow through challenges, they felt that it was only right that they practice what they teach. This ride began as a personal challenge to prove to themselves that they were also capable of more than they realized.
But as they began to truly consider taking on this challenge, they realized that they wanted this ride to have a larger purpose. A growing factor that they recognized throughout their experience in instructing students through the Outward Bound Schools was the increase in students who were diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. Receptive to this rising issue, Yoshie and Katie wanted to become more knowledgeable on the subject of mental health so that they could, in turn, be better equipped to assist these students. It was then that the pair first became aware of Mental Health First Aid.
As they state in their story behind Wheels for Mental Wellness, "People are often hesitant to talk about Mental Health which leads to isolated experiences and unaddressed issues. Wheels for Mental Wellness seeks to open up this dialogue and support MHFA in providing individuals with concrete tools to address Mental Health crises." Determined to raise awareness about the importance of Mental Health First Aid and hurdle a personal challenge of their own for their students, Yoshie and Katie set off on their bikes.
The two began their journey in San Diego, CA, traveling through Phoenix, AZ, Silver City, NM, El Paso, TX, Austin, TX, Baton Rouge, LA, New Orleans, LA, Dauphin Island, AL, Pensacola, FL, before they will end their trip in St. Augustine, FL. They explained that the ride was a bit challenging at first as they had to grow used to the long miles and initial soreness from the journey, but that after that first week, they had become confident that this was a challenge they knew they could tackle together.
As for us here at NAMI Louisiana, we wholeheartedly believe that these resilient girls are capable of anything that they set their minds to accomplish.
Stay up to date on their travels through their blog as they raise awareness for Mental Health First Aid: https://wheelsformentalwellness.org/blog/
You can also support them on their journey through their GoFundMe page here: https://www.gofundme.com/wheelsformentalwellness