Hiding no more: School principal speaks frankly about her battle with depression

Yvetter Gilfoyle, principal of Cathcart Boulevard School, shakes hands with Alan Stevenson, of the local Canadian Mental Health Association, at last year’s Ride Don’t Hide event. Submitted Photo

Tara Jeffrey

Yvette Gilfoyle has been hiding behind depression for 30 years.

“I’ve been dealing with it since I was a teenager, but never talked about it,” said the principal at Cathcart Boulevard. Public School. “I finally wanted to make a statement. I want kids to know that it’s OK to talk about it, and that there’s support for them.”

Gilfoyle has been sharing her story with senior students at the school as they prepare for this weekend’s Ride Don’t Hide event in support of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

While Sarnia-Lambton will join communities across Canada for the national fundraiser on June 21, Gilfoyle has launched a special ‘School Ride’ for her students on June 18 ­- the first in Ontario.

“Yvette is an ideal candidate to bring the school ride to Sarnia-Lambton,” said Angela Kirkland, fund and communications development coordinator for CMHA Lambton-Kent.

“Our hope is that all of our schools will eventually be hosting a ride — just like the Terry Fox Run or Jump Rope for Heart.”

Gilfoyle was the top fundraiser at Sarnia’s inaugural Ride Don’t Hide event last year, so Kirkland approached her about doing a separate ride at her school.

Some 100 students in Grades 7-8 will take to the Howard Watson Trail wearing T-shirts supporting mental health awareness.

The students have already raised $4,000.

“It gets them talking about it,” said Kirkland, adding all proceeds from both rides support local preventative education programs. “The earlier we can have youth talking about mental illness and their own mental health, that will be key to breaking the stigma.”

Following the school ride, the CMHA’s Lambton-Kent ride takes place June 21 at the Moore Sports Complex, with routes along the St. Clair River Trail designed for all ages.

Organizers hope to see 300 participants, with a fundraising goal of $50,000.

“We set the bar so high last year, and it was so successful in so many ways,” said Kirkland, noting 163 riders and $30,000 raised last year. “We figured we’d try to double it.”

IF YOU GO:

WHAT: Ride Don’t Hide

WHERE: Moore Sports Complex, 1166 Emily St., Mooretown

WHEN: June 21, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

DETAILS: 10K, 20K and 50K routes; lunch and entertainment provided. Registration, $35, includes T-shirt (free for kids under 12). Free post-ride massages provided.

Contact: Angela Kirkland, 519-337-5411 or akirkland@cmhalambtonkent.ca or visit www.ridedonthide.com/on/ride/lambton-kent