Cyclist raising awareness for Mental Health

July 2, 2024, 9:19 am
Ashley Bochek

Jade Dulle cycles through the Moosomin area on her ride across Canada to raise awareness of mental health issues.

Jade Dulle is biking across Canada to raise awareness of the need for better mental health care in Saskatchewan.

She started in Prince Rupert and will finish in Newfoundland. She plans to stop at Parliament in Ottawa on the way back with a petition to withhold and improve healthcare within the mental health sector across Canada.

Dulle was interviewed by the World-Spectator on Tuesday as she passed through Moosomin. The interview follows:

Tell me a bit about yourself.
My name is Jade Dulle, I am 28 years old. I am a social worker from Saskatchewan.

I personally experienced some flaws in the mental health system while trying to access it myself.

I am adopted I am genetically predisposed to Schizophrenia on both sides and was experiencing that when I turned 18. I was raised in a great family and my adopted mom is following me in the van on the trip.

I started experiencing different symptoms of mental health concerns, I tried to access the emergency room at 18 and they told me they didn’t have enough resources for me and I would be waitlisted for six months, then they just sent me home. I was experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations, depression, and anxiety— things that were not in my control and we couldn’t really pick apart what it was coming from, but I just assumed it was because both of my biological parents had mental health concerns.

I was really involved in high school in extra curricular programs like SRC and many sports. I was in wrestling for four years and then after high school I took a few gap years and then that was when I really started to experience it. That is usually when it sets in—late teen years and early twenties. I tried to access mental health care again for the next few years and every time I went—you can get help at Mental Health and Addiction services, but you can only get about six counselling sessions. It was six months to a year to see a psychiatrist, so I was inspired to do something about it.

My own healing journey I biked from Maple Creek to Flin Flon in 2017. It was more about destigmatizing mental health concerns so we could talk about it.

Then, I got a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Regina and started working in the Mental Health and Addictions field and realized that the same thing that was happening to me was happening to my clients. I would bring them to the emergency room or try to get them mental health services, and they would be denied, waitlisted or they would be admitted, but it would only be maybe a five day to a week long stay and it wouldn’t address the problem. I was working with that in 2021-2022 and then I thought we have to do something about this—there has to be more. I was like what is the root cause of this issue, so I started having conversations, talking to different people, and starting to explore it then realized it is tied to the legislation. The Mental Health Services Act and the Medical Professionals Act—Saskatchewan is one of the provinces that doesn’t regulate their mental health professions like psychologists and social workers—they’re tied to a code of ethics, but the province doesn’t actually state what they can and cannot do, so people with a one month training certificate can offer counselling services, but it is not up to date or up to high-quality care. Then, the Mental Health Services Act protects the rights of involuntary patients, so if you are arrested and sent on a court order or subpoenaed to go to a mental health facility you will get the services, but if you just go and ask for services they don’t have to give you anything even if you’re suicidal or experiencing intense symptoms. Alberta and other provinces do regulate their Medical Professions Act and we need to do the same thing.

I stepped out of the Mental Health field last year around September. Then, I went back to the Canadian Mental Health Association and said ‘I want to do my thesis for my Masters on the topic and I want to bike across Canada not just Saskatchewan this time.’ When I come back I will do my research, but I will be publishing 10 different papers on each province because each province is different, so instead of doing the research in the university, which can be really intimidating for people, I am just sharing my story and biking. People are more authentic and willing to share and then I am going to publish those 10 papers on systemic flaws in each mental health system. I am also publishing a paper where my whole thesis will be on Saskatchewan.

The second piece is the political advocacy part. I have a petition on and it has 9,200 signatures. There are two different petitions, this one is Empowering Wellness Across Canada, it is calling on the Federal government to review and uphold the standard of mental health care across Canada instead of just hiring Bachelor of Social Workers or giving one month training certificates to do counselling—I do think those have a place, but if we are disguising them as high-quality therapeutic modalities it isn’t going to work. I am bringing that petition to the House of Commons and I am not leaving until they look at it. Once it has 10,000 signatures it gives it a lot of merit—we are only three provinces in so by the time we get to Newfoundland and on the way back stop in Ottawa, I think we will have even more signatures.

The provincial petition is calling on the Provincial government in Saskatchewan to review and update their Mental Health Services Act as well as Medical Professions Act, and provide people with free high-quality services like psychotherapy, and streamline more people to go into psychotherapy because it’s so scattered. There is peer support, counselling, and therapy, but we need to streamline those roles in people in the right positions—not just say anyone can counsel because I can’t even counsel and I have a Bachelors.

The story-telling part—people get hope from this. The conversations I am having—even if it isn’t a part of the research, people get to share their stories with me and see someone else who is living with mental health concerns is hopeful for them.

I finally have a diagnosis which is PTSD, so I have a starting point. I have received high-quality services as of now because I have advocated for myself.

The fourth part is the fundraising initiative. My goal is to raise $100,000 for the Canadian Mental Health Associations across Canada. Then, based on the research I can complete I want to give that money in each province to the areas with the greatest needs. Every province will get $10,000 from my ride. When I am done we will have a banquet as well.

We raised $5,000 last weekend in Davidson which is my family’s hometown. They had a barbecue, the MLA came out, and a bunch of different people supported us.

Where did you start? Where are you ending?
I started in Prince Rupert, BC, and I took a less conventional route because that highway from Vancouver on the Trans-Canada is really busy. I took the Yellowhead Highway with a lot of hills. Coming from Prince Rupert, from the ocean, it’s all ascending so for the first 50 kilometers I was climbing a mountain. I was chased by about 20 farm dogs and I also saw about 20 bears on the way.

I am getting up to 120 kilometers or so as long as the wind is on my back. I trained all winter, but it’s nothing like the actual bike. I plan to go to St. John’s and I am planning to be there at the end of July.

Why is mental health important to you?
It goes back to when I was born. My biological parents didn’t get the help they needed to raise a family or to have me. I was raised with a great family and great supports, but even myself who comes from a middle-class family who does maybe have extra money to access the proper resources, and I am a social worker so I know how to navigate the system, but even then it is difficult. I imagine how difficult it was at 19 when I had my mom advocate for me and I remember even going in after I had my social work degree, still struggling with the same things.

I want it to be streamlined so when someone says they have a mental health concern or illness, I want us to look at the person and streamline a plan for that individual. If we invest in people and have a good system, we are going to see the results and the research shows that. That is what I am going to demonstrate in my research as well.

Why do you think mental health is an important issue in general?
Everybody is impacted by mental health. If we don’t take care of ourselves even just our basic needs that throws off our functioning, how we feel, and what we are capable of. If we aren’t affected by mental health illnesses ourselves, we know somebody who has been. It is everywhere and now that we have destigmatized it to a degree—since my ride in 2017, the stigma has dropped and that is not the part I am focusing on anymore. Now that the stigma has decreased we need to do something because now we are all talking about it and noticing everybody is impacted by it. We can help people become whole in themselves.

At the end you said you are having a banquet. What will that look like?
I had a fundraiser in Saskatoon on April 26. There was a band, Ukrainian food, a silent auction, and 50/50. We raised around $10,000 from that. It will be a big thank you to the sponsors and to the community for helping us put this together.

I want to turn Jade’s ride into a non-profit. I want to do an annual ride with cyclists or anyone who wants to join. I think it would be more provincial and just a couple days, but then for the rest of the year, I want to make an advocacy group outside of the healthcare system that also helps people get their mental health needs met. Then, other things in the community like mental health programs.

How does it feel to be doing this? Do you feel you’re making a difference?
I do. It comes in waves—maybe one week I will spend on the road not having a lot of socializing with anybody except someone in the van, but when I go to Davidson and 100 people come out to the barbecue and I hear how I am inspiring others young and old who have mental health concerns. I look at the comments on the petition and see ‘this person inspires me because I have been failed by the mental health system.’ Even shared our petition on their twitter. It has felt so good to see people inspired.

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See the petition here