When over 100 motorcyclists kicked up their stands at the Toowoomba Showgrounds on Sunday to participate in the 2018 Black Dog Ride, they helped kick-start the national conversation around depression and suicide prevention.
It was the first time the iconic event had been held off the coast in Queensland and attracted over 125 registered riders, some from as far afield as Goondiwindi, Chinchilla and Miles.
Darling Downs Riders president, Clay Cahill, one of the organisers of the inaugural event, said it had been a humbling experience.
“Not only did so many respond and take part but it’s the flow-on effects of people talking about the ride and what it means,” he said.
One-day Black Dog Rides have been an important day on the calendar for motorcyclists around Australia since 2010, the year after Steve Andrews embarked upon a solo month-long motorbike journey around Australia, raising $34,000 for the Suicide Call Back Service, after attending the funeral of the wife of his best mate, whose life had been cut short by a silent struggle with depression.
The rides, described as an enjoyable and meaningful day of riding uniting like-minded people, aim to break down the barrier of silence to encourage people to seek help.
Similar rides were held in the Bundaberg/Fraser Coast, Cairns, Gold Coast, Mackay, Sunshine Coast, and Townsville regions on Sunday.
Clay said the cause was close to home for him.
“I ride with the Darling Downs Riders and one of our members suicided,” he said.
“I’ve gone through the whole black dog thing myself as a younger male, trying to work out where I fit in the world.
“If I can donate my time to help a cause like this, I will.”
He said the joy felt by people doing any hobby was multiplied tenfold by those who experienced motorbike riding.
“I love the complete separation with the busy world – you don’t have to think about anything else except riding,” he said.
Clay said motorcyclists in general loved to get behind anything charity-related.
“They get a bad stigma because of the 1 per cent but they’re a very giving community.”
Being the first year the event was staged in the Darling Downs region, it received ride route support from the Patriots Australia Western Ranges military motorcycle club, as well as participation from the God Squad, the Ulysses Club and the Harley Owners Group or HOG, while the Darling Downs Motorcycle Sporting Club supplied the starting venue and cooked a barbecue lunch for the 125 participants.
For a first-time event, it was an impressive show of support, said Clay, who is keen to build on the awareness for next year.
“I’ve already started thinking about how to build on this – I’m really excited about what it could become,” he said.
While not able to give a final tally of money raised, he said the funds would be donated to Lifeline’s crisis helpline.
- If you or anyone else is in need of support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14
Mental health crisis by numbers
- One in five Australians experience a mental health condition every year
- Three million Australians are living with depression or anxiety
- Eight Australians take their lives each day, or nearly 3000 lives lost each year
- One hundred and eighty Australians attempt to take their lives each day
- The tragic loss of loved ones drives Black Dog Ride to build a community culture of awareness, inclusion and acceptance
- Mental illnesses can be managed and people living with them can lead meaningful, fulfilling lives
- Fostering awareness is the catalyst for encouraging help and preventing suicide