Omaha family hosts annual bike ride to raise awareness for mental health resources, honor late son

An Omaha family honors their son by supporting mental health with bike rides
Published: May. 27, 2023 at 12:25 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - If you’ve ridden your bike along the Wabash Trace in Council Bluffs in recent weeks, you may have noticed signs promoting the “Bike with Mike” ride to Mineola, Iowa.

“We have four sons and our third oldest, Mike, was a very happy-go-lucky, gentle soul, very popular, very friendly, everybody liked him,” says Steve Kutilek, Mike’s dad.

Mike went to Creighton Prep high school and graduated from UNL with a degree in finance. Steve says he was just getting his career started when he began experiencing early stages of depression and anxiety, and he fought the idea of getting mental health help.

“Over a very short time period, maybe two or three years, it really amplified into a full psychotic break and very quickly amplified into schizophrenia,” Steve says.

Eventually, Mike began to accept some help, but it was a slippery slope. Steve says Mike’s crisis worsened, and in May 2020, he took his own life.

Throughout his struggle, getting the help and medication Mike needed was extremely difficult..

“We [later] realized we were missing options and types of resources that are out there,” Steve adds. “The only options during COVID were trying to get an appointment with a psychiatrist 6-8 weeks out, or going to a hospital. He resisted that.”

The Kutilek family soon realized they weren’t the only ones facing these issues.

“It was such a horrible experience for our family that we just decided that once we saw the gaps in our community on mental health resources and once we found out how many other people are dealing with the types of situations that we had, we decided to be very outspoken and just talk about it.”

That’s where those signs on the Wabash Trace come in. The Kutileks have re-created the Thursday night taco rides to Tobey Jacks in Mineola; as an avid bike, it was one of Mike’s favorite things to do.

“We realized how many other people were sweeping this topic under the rug and we decided that we wanted to do something to honor his memory, but at the same time, try to do something where we were bringing awareness of resources that were available to other people who were dealing with mental health issues.”

Each June since 2021 they’ve been doing just that, and raising funds for the mental health services provided by the Community Alliance here in Omaha.

Since their kick-off event, they’ve raised $600,000.

“We have gaps and we need to raise funds so that we can help these organizations that are helping people with mental health.”

Steve says Omaha is becoming a hub for mental health resources, and it’s not just thanks to the work of the Community Alliance.

He says Omaha’s Children’s Hospital has started a mental health program for those under 18, and that Nebraska Medicine, CHI Health, and Methodist all are improving their mental health services, too. There’s also therapy, peer groups, non-profit organizations, and more.

The Kutilek’s mission is to make sure the rest of the community knows about the resources they didn’t know about or didn’t have during Mike’s crisis.

“It seems like every family has some kind of a mental health issue that they’re dealing with and so this event is doing is really making us feel good about not only getting the word out but also keeping Mike’s memory alive.”

Although Steve and the Kutilek family are making a difference, he says there’s still work that needs to be done. For the future of mental health, he’s hopeful for three main things: more people getting involved in psychiatric care, bringing together all the local mental health organizations, and getting more funding for long-term mental health care.

The 2023 Bike with Mike event will be June 10 and begin at the Wabash Trace trailhead in Council Bluffs. The 10-mile ride to Mineola takes about 50 minutes.

Steve says participants are also welcome to walk portions of the trail, or drive straight to Mineola and participate in the short program, raffle, and lunch at Tobey Jack’s.

For information on how to get involved, sign up, or donate, you can visit Bike with Mike.