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Mental health expedition passing through Beiseker

Robert Murray has an ambitious goal – hike all 24,000 kilometres (km) of Canada’s Great Trail to raise awareness about mental health. What he terms his “expedition” will take him through every province, territory and capital city in the country.
Robert Murray is hiking Canada’s Great Trail to raise awareness about mental health, hoping each person he meets along the way will learn one new fact about mental
Robert Murray is hiking Canada’s Great Trail to raise awareness about mental health, hoping each person he meets along the way will learn one new fact about mental health. Murray’s expedition is expected to take him through Beiseker May 22 or 23.

Robert Murray has an ambitious goal – hike all 24,000 kilometres (km) of Canada’s Great Trail to raise awareness about mental health. What he terms his “expedition” will take him through every province, territory and capital city in the country.

Murray – who is based out of Whitecourt, Alta., – predicts he will pass through Beiseker sometime May 22 or 23.

“Mental health still has that stigma, especially when you’re dealing with depression, anxiety,” Murray said. “People don’t like to talk about it, they don’t like to acknowledge that it’s actually something real.”

Murray began his multi-year hike Feb. 13 in Victoria. He anticipates finishing his expedition in September 2020. Throughout the trek, he’s encouraging the people he meets to learn about mental health.

“I challenge people to find one new fact,” Murray said. “There are so many facets of mental health. Depression, anxiety are big ones – those are the ones that I’m mainly dealing with – but I challenge people to find one new fact.”

Murray said as people start learning about mental health, they usually learn much more than just one fact, and start to understand where people coping with mental illness are coming from. He believes mental health knowledge also helps people start to recognize signs of mental illness.

Murray said he was inspired to undertake the hike because of his many personal connections to mental health. He was diagnosed with conversion disorder – a condition where physical symptoms manifest in response to stressful or traumatic events – ten years ago, and has many friends that suffer from mental illness.

“I’ve got a lot of friends that wind up going to depression and choose to take their own lives because they either don’t know where to reach out, how to reach out, when and if they even feel comfortable reaching out,” he said. “I’ve been lucky to also have some friends that have reached out for help.”

Even though Murray is not conducting any formal meet-ups in the communities he passes through, he always stops to talk with anyone he meets along the hike.

“A lot of people see me with my backpack and ask what I’m doing, and it starts the conversation,” he said. “It allows me to point them in the direction of finding a little more education.”

Murray finds the people he meets and talks to are usually quite receptive to his message.

“Probably about 80 per cent say they have somebody that’s dealing with something similar,” he said.

Murray said anyone who sees him passing through a community should take some time to have a conversation.

“If people want to come walk for a little bit, by all means,” he said. “Come out and walk, stop me on the street and ask me. The trail goes in and out of town, sometimes close to highways. I’m pretty distinguished – I’ve got a black and orange bag.”

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