Cyclist completes cross-Canada ride raising awareness of mental health crisis in Manitoba community

A cyclist who has been riding across Canada to raise awareness of the youth mental health crisis in a Manitoba community is back home, but says his journey is far from complete.

Rylee Nepinak arrived back in Winnipeg on Tuesday afternoon following a bike ride across the country. The 25-year-old cyclist from Sagkeeng First Nation started his ride in Vancouver in August.

He made it to Halifax on Monday, greeted by youth from Tataskweyak Cree Nation.

"My ride is over but my journey itself isn't completely over. I still have promises to fulfill to myself and to Tataskweyak Cree Nation," Nepinak said.

"But the fact that the ride itself is done, I feel overwhelmed with joy and relief and just humbled that I have a new family."

In July, Tataskweyak Cree Nation declared a state of emergency due to recent suicides in the community. Nepinak decided to start the cross-country ride to raise awareness about the mental health crisis in Tataskweyak and other communities across Canada.

"We need to understand that this isn't just happening in Tataskweyak Cree Nation. This happens in our cities as well. This happens in a lot of our northern communities, if not all," he said.

"We need our people to have their basic needs met – proper education, clean drinking water and just over all support from our country."

Tataskweyak Cree Nation Chief Doreen Spence said the community is grateful for the work Nepinak has done.

"For a total stranger to do this, he has never stepped in our community, but yet he went into this ride," she said. "I can't wait for him to come to our community and meet the rest of our community members because I know everybody just wants to meet him and thank him."

Nepinak said he raised about $27,000 during the ride. He plans on bringing the money to Tataskweyak Cree Nation, and hold a sharing circle and youth town hall.

"The youth are going to be the ones deciding how to spend it," he said. "I don't want that to be the only time I'm there, I want it to be ongoing work moving forward." 

Anyone struggling with mental health can call the CMHA at 204-982-6100. If you are in crisis, you can call the 24-hour Klinic Crisis Line at 204-786-8686 or 1-888-322-3019.

More supports for mental health in Manitoba can be found online.