MORE than 100 people will ride their motorbikes from Mildura to Renmark and back on Sunday in an effort to raise awareness of depression and suicide prevention.
Mildura Telstra Store owner Ray Pratt, who organised the Mildura Black Dog Rider one-dayer, only gained his L-plate motorbike licence last week.
He admitted he was a little “nervous”, but would not let his inexperience deter him from helping the cause.
“We were approached and asked to organise it – I said I don’t have a bike or a licence, but I’ll do my best,” he said.
“I’ll get plenty of riding experience in the next three days. At least it’s open road.”
While Mildura had previously seen the Black Dog Ride state and national event come through Mildura, this year was the first time the city had hosted the event itself and he hoped to make it an annual event.
Mr Pratt said the ride provided a forum for people to talk comfortably about depression and suicide and he had been overwhelmed by people telling their stories when registering for the event.
“The stories are just amazing.”
He said one man had lost his brother to suicide, so would ride his brother’s bike on the ride. Another man, who suffers depression but who hadn’t ridden for 30 years, had regained his licence so he could take part.
“It’s such a hidden issue. The aim is to raise awareness and get people talking and feel more confident about talking about it in general.”
Ulysses Club member Stephen Hegedus, who will lead the ride on Sunday, said the cause was something his club aligned with.
“A lot of our members are at that age where they’ve had or are suffering from depression. It’s a good thing to support,” he said.
And the club has decided to make a weekend of the event and will host a barbecue dinner at the motorcycle club rooms on Saturday from 6pm.
Entry to the event is $5, which includes a barbecue.
Michael ‘Billows’ Billings said the cause had struck a chord with him after losing a close friend to suicide.
“The suicide rate in Australia is horrible, but if you’re a young Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander you’re almost six times more susceptible, and just that’s not acceptable,” he said. “More money needs to go to this sort of thing.”
Riders will meet at the Mildura wharf at 8am on Sunday for breakfast made by the Lions Club, and the ride will kick off at 9.30am.
Ride registrations are being taken up until the morning and can be made online at blackdogride.com.au. All proceeds from the Black Dog Ride will go to Lifeline.
IF you need help, contact Lifelife’s 24-hour telephone crisis support line on 13 11 14.