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Bend man plans triathlon across America for Mental Health Awareness Month

Justin True, 29, had his own experience battling mental health issues, attempting to take his own life as a teen

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A Bend man who considers himself an extreme athlete is planning his next outrageous adventure – this time, raising awareness for a cause that hits close to home.

"People have just been like, ‘This is the craziest thing, like, this sounds hard,” Justin True told NewsChannel 21 Thursday.

Insane, crazy, impossible – he’s heard it all. Those are words that would make most people shy away from a challenge, but True uses them as fuel.

"Pretty much shot my buddy a message back in the fall, and he's like, 'That sounds insane.' Alright, well that's good,” True said. “That's what I want to hear."

He's been featured on NewsChannel 21 more than a few times in the past, completing 24 Crossfit workouts in 24 hours, and becoming one of the first people to complete a source-to-sea trek through Madagascar's largest river.

Come May, though, he'll embark on what just might be his toughest endeavor to date.

"I think, mentally, it'll be the hardest,” True acknowledged.

He’ll start by swimming 50 miles from the Bahamas, through the Bermuda Triangle, to the coast of Miami.

"We hear about it as kids, like planes going missing, boats going missing. And then once you grow up, you're like, 'That's not real,” True said. “Now it's like, 'Well, maybe it is.'"

From there, he'll bike 3,500 miles to San Diego, including a quick pit stop in Utah to casually complete an Iron Man.

The last leg will be a 600-mile run to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

That’s equates to 4,150 miles of swimming, biking and running, which he plans on doing in about 35 days.

Yeah, crazy could be a perfect word to describe his plan, but not when you consider his reason behind it.

"I just want to be able to help somebody on the other side, because, I don't know, maybe they just need a little boost to get over that hump that I was in,” True said.

When he was just 15 years old, his brother was in the hospital for a drug overdose. His mother was just a few doors away, after being stabbed seven times.

"Her jugular was holding on by millimeters,” True said. “(The doctors) just said, 'Alright, when you go in there, you can't cry. If you cry, she'll cry and she'll die, because she's too weak.’"

So in his words, he learned at an early age to just “suck it up.”

His brother and mother would both survive, but a few years later, True was ready to end it all.

He couldn't just “suck it up” anymore.

He tried to take his own life -- twice -- in the same week.

Now, looking back, True is able to put that moment into perspective.

"The physical pain that I would feel doing a triathlon or pulling a car, like, yeah it hurts, but it's nothing to the grieving that people have to deal with by losing someone they love,” True said. “I almost put them through that."

That's why True's newest adventure will take place during Mental Health Awareness Month in May. He wants to spread a message to other people who are dealing with their own struggles.

"You might be so depressed today and want to end it all, but you know what? Tomorrow might be great,” True said. “If not, the next day might be great. So why not just keep going?"

True said even if his story helps only one person, it will have all been worth it.

You can help support True’s triathlon across America here. Most, if not all of the money will go straight to a charity that focuses on mental health.

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Max Goldwasser

Max Goldwasser is a reporter and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Max here.


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