Sixteen swimmers left Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s shortly after 7 a.m. Saturday morning to swim 5.1 kilometres across the Bell Island Tickle.
For participants, it was both a personal challenge and a chance to raise awareness and funds for mental health initiatives.
“I had a bit of an issue several years ago in my life, and it made me realize how important my mental health was to me,” said swimmer Kim Davis.
This was her fifth time participating in the annual Tickle Swim for Mental Health but she still felt nervous.
“I’m anxious about is there going to be some jelly fish around? Will there be any seaweed? Is there any fish? Is there some current? Will the wind come up? You know, those are anxious things, and relaying that back a little bit to the mental health situation, it gives you a little bit of, I guess, stability, or a little bit of encouragement to say, ‘Yea, I really need to just …”
— she paused and took a deep breath — “… calm down. I need to get through this. I know I’m capable of getting to the other side.”
Davis said during last year’s Tickle Swim she ran into some trouble when she was in the water for a long time.
“I can remember thinking the whole time that I was out there that a lot of people got to do this every day just to get going and get functioning, so, stay at it and get to the other side.”
She said swimming has given her “a lot of peace over the years” and she hopes this event and the funds raised can help others.
Now in its sixth year, the Tickle Swim typically raises thousands of dollars each year for the Canadian Mental Health Association-Newfoundland and Labrador division (CMHA-NL). All funds raised go towards programs in this province.
The event also aims to raise awareness about mental health and show the connection between mental and physical health.
CMHA-NL CEO Dan Goodyear said it’s a significant event for the organization both for the funds raised and the awareness it brings.
“It’s not a light swim. It’s five kilometres, so it’s a challenge, and people with mental health issues face challenges every day.”
Event founder and co-chair Sheilagh O’Leary said it’s an issue that touches everyone.
“I have a family member affected by mental illness. We all have people (affected).”
Participant Keith Barrett also said talking about mental health is important to him because “it impacts everybody.”
For him, the toughest part of the swim was “looking down into the blackness of the bottom and wondering what’s looking back up at you.”
But he had a strategy to encourage him along the way — a GPS that went off every kilometre.
“Each kilometre that goes off, I’m just like, ‘OK that’s one done, and then two done, and then three done’, and then once you’re past halfway, it’s like, ‘OK, I’m half-way, I can make it through no problem.’”
While some participants say there’s a bit of competition with the event, it’s mostly about completing a personal challenge and promoting the cause.
“For me, it’s about completion,” said Davis. “Get to the other side safely and happily, get out and have a nice cup of coffee at the end, and sit around and look at the sun coming up.”
People can still donate online at www.tickleswim.com.
Tickle Swim raises awareness, funds for mental health
Sixteen swimmers left Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s shortly after 7 a.m. this morning and swam 5.1 kilometres across the Bell Island Tickle.
Now in its sixth year, the annual Tickle Swim for Mental Health typically raises thousands of dollars each year for the Canadian Mental Health Association-Newfoundland and Labrador division (CMHA-NL).
It also aims to raise awareness about mental health and to show the connection between mental and physical health.
The first person to reach Bell Island this morning at 8:22 a.m. was David Haines, who said he’s always wanted to swim across the Tickle and “there couldn’t be a better cause.”
People can still donate at www.tickleswim.com.
Read more on this story in The Telegram on Monday.