Kayaker stops in La Crosse during journey down Mississippi River

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – La Crosse is just one stop on a 2,350-mile journey by an Ohio kayaker.

Joe Solomon is taking a kayak trip down the Mississippi River to raise awareness about mental health and to raise money for support programs.

Solomon had his own mental health journey after slipping into a catatonic state after surgery.

He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

After being heavily sedated with medication, Solomon decided that wasn’t how he wanted to live his life.

He picked up a paddle in Cincinnati and started kayaking 8 miles a day, building strength both physically and mentally.

Solomon wants to erase the stigma around mental health, especially for men.

He says, “a lot of men feel like they can deal with it on their own … it’s important to have a specialist help you out through these problems that you may be experiencing.”

Solomon is a big believer in using nature to heal.

He’s representing a non-profit in Cincinnati that takes inner-city kids out into nature to go camping, kayaking, and other outdoor activities to improve their mental wellbeing.

Solomon wants people to know that no matter what you’re going through, you can overcome it.

He says, “it’s all about overcoming. I almost died in a catatonic state back in 2012, and it took me seven years to get my full sanity back and I’m out here showing people with disabilities can overcome and that if you work really hard at things like I’m doing right now, you will succeed; and that’s what I’m out here trying to do.”

Solomon started this journey down the river on May 31st and has been out on the river for 32 days total so far.

He’s averaging about 20 miles a day and is expecting to make the Gulf of Mexico by late September.

If you would like to follow his journey and donate to his cause, you can find him on Facebook at “Kayaking 4 a Cause” or on Instagram at @kayaking4acause.