Alumni fundraise for youth mental health in honour of Bethany Yan

Yan’s family and friends participate in Jack.org bike ride

Reid and MacNiven are joining the Yan Clan.
Credit: 
Supplied.

Two Queen’s alumni are undertaking an initiative for youth mental health in honour of their best friend Bethany (Boat) Yan.                                                         

Megen Reid, PheKin ’19, and Courtney MacNiven, ArtSci’19, are joining the Yan Clan to ride 100 kilometres in Jack Ride, Jack.org's annual bike ride, May 29. They’re riding in honour of Yan, a Queen’s ConEd student and varsity cheerleader who passed away last January.

“[Boat] impacted a lot of people’s lives, and this ride is something that’s been really meaningful to her family, and we just want to carry it forwards and help people have the mental health resources that she didn’t have,” MacNiven told The Journal.

Composed of Yan’s family and friends, the Yan Clan has been doing the ride for six years. This year, they’ve raised over $8,000 for Jack.org, a Canadian health initiative working to improve youth mental health resources, through an online fundraising page.

“We […] didn’t expect the amount of support that we’ve received. We were blown away,” McNiven said. “We’re now trying to see how far we can get this to go, and see what we can do, and how much awareness we can bring to mental health.”

READ MORE: Queen’s mourns the loss of student Bethany Qun Yi Yan

Usually, participants gather in one place for the annual bike ride. Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, however, the bike ride will be virtual this year. Participants from across Canada can ride however and wherever they choose and can opt to participate in Jack.org's virtual training and community activities.

The Yan family will be riding by their cottage, and Reid and MacNiven will be riding together in Cambridge. The team plans to have Zoom calls at certain kilometre marks.

Reid and MacNiven have shared their message using various avenues and reached out to Queen’s resources and clubs, like Step Above Stigma and the Alumni Review. They’ve fundraised through various social media platforms and gave an interview on Queen’s radio.

They’ve also reached out to some social media influencers and fitness instructors to run an online cycling class to raise money for the initiative. 

“We’re really trying to just bring an awareness to what we’re doing, and we think it’s really relevant to the Queen’s population,” Reid said.

Yan was a big mental health advocate who benefitted from Queen’s Mental Health Services (QMHS), according to Reid. 

“We’re trying to bring awareness to that for people [who] may not know that those services exist, or need help in reaching out,” she said.

READ MORE: QBACC calls for increased accessibility to Queen’s mental health services

Reid said that, though they help a lot of people, there’s still “a lot of improvement” to be made to QMHS, and there’s a “disconnect” between student needs and the availability of QMHS.

“We experienced [that disconnect] after our friend passed away, in that Queen’s just didn’t have enough mental health professionals on campus to deal with the immensity of the situation,” she said. 

MacNiven added that young people are living in “unique times” which have exacerbated mental health issues among the generation.

“We’re living in a time where there’s such a pressure to always be productive, to always be turned on,” she said. “There’s such a fine line between being able to reach out for help and not being able to reach out for help.”

Reid and MacNiven invited students to join them in the bike ride, spread awareness, and donate if they can.

“The message we [want] to get across is every individual can make a difference,” Reid said.

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