According to the CDC, one in 25 Americans live with a serious mental illness like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.
Some people will silently suffer while others speak out to break the stigma of mental health.
One Cincinnati man is doing just that this summer by kayaking the entire length of the Ohio River making a stop in the Tri-State.
“Paddle, Paddle, Paddle. That’s what’s going through my head,” says Joe Solomon, kayaker.
981 miles–that’s the distance Solomon is traveling along the entire Ohio River.
“I’m able to get 20 to 30 miles a day now,” says Solomon. “In the beginning I was lucky if I got 15.”
Starting in Pittsburgh and more than halfway to his endpoint in Illinois, he’s already kayaked 756 miles with only 220 miles left to go.
“I traveled through Steubenville, Wheeling, Portsmouth, Cincinnati, Louisville…man, I’ve gone a long ways,” says Solomon.
But for Solomon, fighting the wind, weather, and water is nothing compared to a fight of his own.
“Back in 2012 I had surgery on my elbow, my left elbow, and during the surgery I had a horrible reaction to the anesthesia and it threw me in a catatonic state,” says Solomon.
It was a condition Solomon had to deal with.
“The way it was treated I kind of lost my mind basically,” says Solomon. “So what I was able to do was regain myself through kayaking.”
Kayaking several hours a day, he says being outdoors is therapeutic and a form of healing
Solomon says his adventure is much more than a hobby.
“The end result is just to get people to be aware of mental health in this country and to talk about it,” says Solomon. “There are a lot of people that are afraid to talk about it. For me personally I used to be afraid, but now I’m telling the whole world about it.”
And with each passing hour and every mile, Solomon hopes to reach people in the same boat as him.
“Hopefully someone is inspired by what I’m doing because if they are maybe they can seek the help they may need if they have a condition they are struggling with,” says Solomon.
Solomon says he is also raising money for two organizations helping youth programs and the National Alliance on Mental Illness which helped him.
He says he will be back on the river Friday morning and finishing his trip within the next eight days which is a week earlier than expected.