Cycling for Mental Health

January 15, 2018

Mac Dorris is a guy who gets things done. He had a vision to create a charity bike ride for mental health, and within a short six months of intensive planning, Mac hosted The Ride for Mental Health—the first of what he hopes will be an annual event that will change how people think about mental illness.

This past June, 100 cyclists gathered in New Paltz, New York, to participate in this first-of-its-kind event to support mental health research at McLean. Some were family and old friends, including two of Mac’s college classmates—there to support a dream and the memory of Mac’s son who died too young as a result of psychiatric illness. Others were veteran cyclists, intrigued by the route and the stunning vistas of the Hudson Valley, but with no apparent connection to the cause or the Dorris family.

At 9am on Saturday morning, the roads still slick from the previous night’s rain, riders toweled off seats and handlebars in anticipation of a day—or two—in the saddle. As if to acknowledge the significance of the occasion, the sun burst from behind the clouds, sending them off to the challenge ahead.

Every detail was managed carefully, from rest stops to SAG (support and gear) vehicles and a host of volunteers posted along three courses—one at 25 miles and two others at 50 miles. Over the two days, cyclists chose their courses based on skill, determination, and fitness level. Some opted for a one-day 25-mile ride, while others rode both 50-mile courses and went back for more on day two.

The Ride for Mental Health

Cyclists at the 2017 Ride for Mental Health

“There was a wonderful warmth and camaraderie among the riders, even though most of us did not know one another,” said Lori Etringer, MBA, McLean’s chief development officer who rode the course. “It wasn’t hard to find common ground on the topic of mental illness. The picturesque and challenging terrain offered some poignant parallels to The Ride’s mission.”

In the evening, Mac treated the tired, but happy cyclists to an elegant dinner under a white tent in the beautiful Mohonk Preserve. He spoke about his commitment to supporting mental health research, urging open and honest discourse in an effort to bring mental illness out of the shadows and eliminate stigma. He reminisced about his son Eric and the ways in which stigma had affected him.

“It was a wonderful and humbling weekend. People I had never met shared stories of their own personal or family experiences with mental illness,” said Mac. “We raised over $100,000 for McLean, and next year will be even bigger and better. I hope everyone comes back, and brings a few friends with them.”

In October, Mac presented a check for $100,841 to McLean President and Psychiatrist in Chief Scott L. Rauch, MD, and Kerry J. Ressler, MD, PhD, McLean’s chief scientific officer. Some of the proceeds will support clinician training and research in borderline personality disorder (BPD); a financial scholarship for McLean’s new residential program for adolescent boys with BPD; and support for the inaugural summit of the hospital’s newly launched Institute for Technology in Psychiatry.

If you are interested in supporting the effort or joining The Ride for Mental Health next year on June 23 and 24, 2018, please contact Mac or visit the website.


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