Retired Gaston police officer Chris Lowrance is biking more than 4,000 miles across the country to raise awareness about mental health and suicide among first responders. Having set out from Astoria, Oregon, he will go more than 4,200 miles to Yorktown, Virginia.
The idea for his trip began as a way to start his retirement, but turned into something bigger.
“Initially it was for me to have a reset after law enforcement, but I realized it was bigger than me,” said Lowrance.
Lowrence, who spent 28 years at the Gaston County Police Department working as a patrol officer, SWAT team member, K-9 handler and sergeant found that his calling didn’t end after retirement, but is still seeking to help his brothers in blue.
“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.
According to Lowrance, trauma builds throughout one’s career with being aware of it necessarily.
“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.
Lowrence’s three-month journey has brought many strangers to his side in the process, and is helping to raise money for the organization Blue H.E.L.P. that supports families of first responders who have died by suicide. According to the organization, 60 officers have died by suicide in 2021, and 172 the previous year.
So far, Lowrance’s efforts have helped raise over $5,000 dollars. You can help support the ride and the cause at the Blue H.E.L.P. A Penny for Their Thoughts page.
Lowrance remains motivated in his journey by his wife and late father-in-law who first introduced him to cycling. He hopes to complete his journey by August when he will return to Gaston, North Carolina.