Why people are ditching their pants and jumping off a bridge in support of mental health — and it’s not too late for you to join them
For many people, the only thing scarier than heights is being naked in public. Why, then, will 160 people strip naked to bungy jump at WildPlay’s Element Park in Nanaimo on March 9 and 10? The answer: to raise funds and awareness for mental health.
The British Columbia Schizophrenia Society (BCSS) has been running their provocative Naked Bungy Jump event for the past 12 years. Funds raised allow the BCSS to offer greater support and tools for people living with mental illness and their families, including support groups and crisis response skill-building.
The tagline of this year’s Naked Bungy Jump is “Ditch your fear, pants, and the stigma of mental illness.” But how does getting naked and jumping off a bridge with a rope tied around your ankles accomplish that goal? To find out more, the Martlet spoke with Corey Wein, a fourth-year social work student at UVic doing his practicum with the BCSS.
Wein first participated in the jump with a friend several years ago.
“It was easier to take off my clothes in public and jump off a bridge than it was to talk about my depression,” he says.
If anything brings people together, it’s jumping off a bridge without any clothes on.
Being able to speak out about mental health issues requires courage and determination. In a culture that emphasizes success, accomplishment, and individuality, there are innumerable (and sometimes imperceptible) boundaries to acknowledging when we need help. The Naked Bungy Jump aims to help us conquer that fear. If we can jump off a bridge naked, then surely we can talk about mental health.
“What I would really like to see,” says Wein, “is people just openly talking about hearing voices or that they’re feeling really depressed today, and it just being a common-day thing.”
If isolation and fear contribute to the lethality of mental health illness, the BCSS is offering a powerful opportunity to make a statement. The only way to break down the stigma around mental health is to have the courage to do something about it.
Wein stressed the immense sense of community that such a crazy event is able to elicit. If anything brings people together, it’s jumping off a bridge without any clothes on. Although it’s a scary prospect, it’s better when you know that everyone else is in the same boat as you. You’re doing this crazy thing, but you’re doing it together. Being able to conquer your fear and take the plunge is extremely empowering.
On campus, we hear a lot about the importance of speaking out about mental health illness and seeking support when we need it.
In January, UVic held its Mental Health Awareness Week, which included a breathtaking performance from spoken word artist Shane Koyczan. We know how important mental health issues are and how critical it is to seek support when we need it.
But this is easier said than done. UVic counselling services can’t meet the demand of its students. The wait time for a counselling session is well over a month, unless you’re in crisis, in which case you get bumped up. Anyhow, by the time someone’s in crisis, sometimes it’s too late.
So if your mom asks you “if all your friends were naked and jumping off a bridge, would you?” you can tell her that you sure would.
Provincially, our healthcare system is not adequately prepared to meet our mental health needs. Not all medications are covered under insurance and it can be hard to access supports, even when we’re able to recognize our need and reach out. We are in desperate need of change, and the only way to see change is through action.
In the past, the Naked Bungy Jump has been incredibly successful. Last year the BCSS raised over $50 000 towards continuing support and resources for those affected by mental illness. It only costs $55 to jump in the nude, which, if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to go bungy jumping, is an incredible deal. The fact that you’re supporting a great cause is a plus.
Alternatively, you can jump for free by raising $200 in donations. Although on-site photography is not allowed, there is an official photographer who takes photos throughout the event. One easy way to fundraise is to sell those photos (tasteful nudes, of course) to family and friends in exchange for their donations. Or, if you want to support the cause but aren’t so sure about nudity, you can jump fully clothed for full price. It costs $15 to come to the event to support the jumpers. Thanks to a matching donor, the value of your donations will be doubled.
Each of us has the responsibility — for ourselves and others — to be a part of the solution for mental health issues in Canada. We all have the ability to speak out and step up. So if your mom asks you “if all your friends were naked and jumping off a bridge, would you?” you can tell her that you sure would.
To make it easier for UVic students to participate, there is a bus taking students to Nanaimo from UVic on March 10 departing at 9:45 a.m. from in front of the bookstore and returning at 4:30 p.m.
To register to jump go to wildplay.com/naked-bungy/.
For more information see bcssvictoria.ca/events/naked-bungy-for-bcss-2019/.
To book a spot on the bus for the March 10 jump, email firstname.lastname@example.org.