I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING…WHAT DOES A CHICKEN CAR IN NEW YORK CITY HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH WHAT I’M WRITING ABOUT?
Well, if you have not heard already this unique set of wheels was driven around the country by three guys with the ambition to travel through 48 states in two months with the purpose of promoting mental health awareness.
Patrick Taylor, Alex Vassiliadis and Nate Perez met during college at the University of Illinois in Champaign, IL. It was through many conversations that this idea unfolded into a full fledged tour known as the Mental Illness Awareness Tour or MIA tour. With each members personal connection to mental health they let two worlds collide and combined their dream of traveling the country with helping people along the way. This road trip was a public forum for people to share their stories, connect those in need to accessible resources and discuss mental illness in a positive, yet transparent environment.
The following dialogue was from a Q & A session that I was fortunate enough to have with Patrick. He discusses his own personal opinion on mental health and the experiences he had during the tour.
Q: What does mental health look like to you?
A: “To me, mental wellness is like maintenance on a car. You use your mind every day all day, and need to remember to take time to maintain it. Or in terms of the car, getting an oil change. I think many people get caught up in their day to day activities and forget to reflect on themselves and ensuring that they are Operating at 100%. Taking only a few short minutes every day or two to reflect on your mental health is mental wellness. How you spend those couple of minutes is different for everyone, but it is worth exploring what helps you unwind to stay mentally well.”
Q: Why do you think it is important that we spread mental illness awareness?
A: “I think it’s important to talk about mental illness to educate people. The average person does not know what resources are available to them, or how to react to a person having a mental breakdown, or how controlling mental illness is to the person suffering. Through education, we can make our communities more inclusive and understanding of the situation others endure with mental illness.”
Q: Top 3 cities you visited and why?
A: “1. Sandpoint, Idaho for glacier lake, mountains, and friendly welcoming people. 2. Philadelphia, PA for Pat’s cheesesteaks and the rocky impersonator. 3. New Orleans for the Cajun food!”
I think it is safe to say that these three guys (plus a chicken) are making a positive impact. To date, they have raised over $21,000 and are happy to be donating whatever isn’t used to cover their costs back to mental health organizations that have helped them along the way. The chicken car is currently traveling around Illinois and speaking at Mental Health events.
A little birdy told me to be ready for Mental Illness Awareness tour 2017! For more information or to help fund their cause, check out the MIA tour website: MIA Tour Like them on Facebook and continue to see their efforts as they prepare for their next tour.
Their story is a reminder that we are the ones that can help change the attitude surrounding mental illness. If you know someone who is struggling or have been struggling yourself, remember that it is okay to ask for the help that you not only may need, but deserve. Sending love to you all!