By DANIELLE GALVIN
ONE of the five Black Dog Rides held across the state started in Pakenham on Sunday to raise awareness for suicide prevention and depression.
The ride is run by Lions Clubs across the country every year, and it was the first time the event kicked off in Pakenham to raise funds for Lifeline.
Ride leader and Pakenham co-ordinator David McAuliffe said the fund-raiser started in 2009 by Steve Andrews who was moved to act on mental health issues.
“Back then, it was essentially to raise awareness, it wasn’t actually meant to be a fund-raiser,” he said.
“Wherever Steve went, he found people were very interested and related to it, and that they wanted to donate money,” he said.
Since 2012, the Black Dog Ride has been run simultaneously in each state and on Sunday there were rides across Victoria.
The 200-kilometre ride through the region was one of many aimed at raising the profile of mental health issues and removing the stigma of seeking help.
“The ride is open to anyone – this is an issue that affects everyone and it doesn’t discriminate,” he said.
Mr McAuliffe said there were a number of donations on the day and it was a successful and rewarding trip. Riders from as far as Geelong and Sale turned out for the ride through Gippsland.
“We headed down through Korumburra, Inverloch, Wonthaggi,” he said.
“It’s about raising public awareness of depression and suicide prevention,” he said.
“It is a bigger problem than people realise – this is, in fact, twice the size of the road toll.
“Lifeline does a fantastic job – their crisis counsellors take a phone call every 45 seconds,” he said.
Mr McAuliffe said the organisers were always touched by the support from the communities that host the rides.
“A lot of people have a very personal reason for doing it,” he said.
“It is so widespread and is such a big problem.”
On the Black Dog website, Mr Andrews talks about his reasons for starting up the ride and he urged people to always seek help.
“Following 12 months of planning, I set off from Busselton in Western Australia on 26 July 2009 for the inaugural solo Black Dog Ride around Australia,” he said.
“Twenty-six days, $34, 232.80 fund-raised, and 15,000kms later and I knew that I had been successful in my mission to raise awareness but I also knew that it was just the beginning.
“Please remember, depression is an illness not a weakness and effective treatments are available.
“It is OK to reach out for help; it’s OK to talk about the way you feel. You don’t have to battle it on your own,” he said.
Visit beyondblue.org.au, call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 257 or Lifeline on 131 119 if you are in need of immediate assistance or talk to someone you can trust.