THE roar of over 600 motorcycles filled Bridgetown last Sunday when the Bridgetown to Busselton leg of the Black Dog Ride started up from the Town Square.
The first Black Dog Ride took place in 2009, just after a man called Steve Andrews found himself at the funeral of his best mate’s wife. Anna was a beautiful woman, a wife and a mother, whose life was cut short by her silent struggle with depression. Steve’s mother had also taken her own life.
Standing at Anna's wake, Steve felt the need to raise community awareness of depression, to create a national conversation so that people living with mental ill health felt able to talk about it and seek help.
In 2009, Steve embarked upon a solo month long motorbike journey around Australia, raising $34,000 for the Suicide Call Back Service and engaging thousands of Australians with his message of awareness. On his lonesome journey Steve took with him a soft toy black dog, representing the Black Dog of Depression which the war time Prime Minister of England had made famous. Steve called his dog Winston and his ride, The Black Dog Ride.
Since that time, Steve has co-ordinated four one day Black Dog Rides as well as four Australia-wide long distance rides, all to raise awareness of depression and suicide prevention. In the four years after the inaugural Ride, Steve has been joined on the road by thousands of Australians as they try to raise awareness. They have also raised over $1million for mental health services.
“Every year in Australia, one million adults and 100,000 young people live with depression. Fifty per cent won't seek treatment and nearly 3,000 will take their own lives every single year,” Mr Andrews said.
The Bridgetown Ride started at 8am with breakfast in the Town Square supplied by the Bridgetown Lions Club, then after a brief meeting the 600 plus riders started their engines, with applause coming from the many spectators around them.
The first stop for the ride was Nannup where the riders took a break for refreshments, then on to Busselton for a barbecue lunch at the Busselton Football Club
In creating Black Dog Ride, Mr Andrews has turned a light on amidst the despair of depression and thousands of Australians are embracing this beacon of hope.
“Remember, depression is an illness, not a weakness and effective treatments are available. It's important to seek help early and with the right treatment most people recover. If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be suffering from depression talk to a doctor or another health professional today. If we talk about depression and work together we can make a difference,” Mr Andrews said.
If you or a friend need help urgently, Lifeline 13 11 14 and the Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 are available 24/7.