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Tickle Swim from Portugal Cove to Bell Island not a competition, but a personal challenge

Kim Davis is helped out of the water at Bell Island after swimming the Tickle Sunday morning.
Kim Davis is helped out of the water at Bell Island after swimming the Tickle in 2017. - File photo by Joe Gibbons

At 7 a.m. on Aug. 18, some courageous individuals will swim five kilometres across The Tickle in cold North Atlantic waters from Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s to Bell Island. The swim is in support of the Canadian Mental Health Association-Newfoundland and Labrador division (CMHA-NL).

This year will mark the sixth annual Tickle Swim for Mental Health, aiming to show the connection between mental and physical health and raise awareness for mental health in the province. In recent years, the Tickle Swim for Mental Health has had up to 25 participants, raising more than $25,000 for the CMHA-NL each year.

“I always had this bucket list item that I wanted to do, which was to swim a channel,” says Sheilagh O’Leary, founder and chairwoman of the Tickle Swim for Mental Health.

Over the past six years, the event has drawn a combination of more or less experienced swimmers and participants who have spoken openly about their struggles with mental health.

The Tickle Swim for Mental Health is not intended to be a competition, but instead a personal challenge.

“It’s mentally and physically tough, but it’s doable,” says O’Leary.

She says mental health and addiction is a growing concern in the province.

Paddle NL has helped make the event possible by spreading the word to get kayakers to paddle alongside each swimmer, to ensure the event is as safe as possible.

The CMHA-NL is inviting those interested to support the swimmers and the effort to decrease stigma around mental health by sponsoring them and/or coming to cheer them on while they swim.

All the money raised from the swim will remain in the province to go toward local mental health programs.

In case of bad weather, the Tickle Swim for Mental Health will take place on Aug. 19.

Information about the swim and donations can be found at

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