N.C. police officer biking 4,000 miles across U.S. to raise awareness for mental health among first responders

Updated: Jun. 6, 2021 at 11:23 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A retired Gaston County police officer is biking more than 4,000 miles across the country with a purpose - bringing awareness about mental health and suicide among first responders.

Chris Lowrance’s journey started a month ago.

On May 2, he started the trip with a plane ride to Portland, Oregon. After a quick stop nearby in Astoria - he was on his way.

Currently, he’s in Idaho.

“Initially it was for me to have a reset after law enforcement, but I realized it was bigger than me,” said Lowrance.

Lowrance says his late father-in-law was his motivation to keep cycling. As far as this TransAmerica trek, his wife was the final push he needed.

His bicycle is named LD.

“I named the bicycle after my father-in-law,” he added.

Lowrance spent 28 years putting away criminals for the Gaston County Police Department. He retired Dec. 2020, working through May as a resource officer at New Hope Elementary School.

In preparation for the journey, he says he realized the need to bring awareness about a growing problem.

“Mental health in a law enforcement profession is such a taboo topic. You’re afraid maybe you, ‘lose my job or they find me unfit for duty,’ so people don’t talk about it. And that’s the thing that really needs to change so people are okay with getting professional help and trying to deal with the issues bothering them,” he said.

With the daily grind of a law enforcement officer, Lowrance says a lot of trauma can happen.

“I call it compound trauma. You go see different scenes, see different circumstances whether it be homicides, or abused child, or domestic violence situation. All of those things, I try to tell the new guys those are little pieces. Throughout your career you pick up little pieces even if you don’t realize it,” he said.

This expected three-month journey has brought many strangers to his side.

It has also helped start the conversation about mental health of first responders, raising money for Blue H.E.L.P - an organization supporting families of first responders who have died by suicide.

According to Blue H.E.L.P., 60 officers have died in 2021. Last year, 172.

“What I do, if it touches one police officer, one firefighter, EMS or dispatcher, that keeps them from making the decision of doing something to themselves, then this 4,700-mile journey of mine has been worth it,” Lowrance said.

He hopes to be pedaling back into Gastonia in August.

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