Riders raise awareness of black dog, the silent killer
A SILENT killer is claiming the lives of eight Australians every day but many aren't talking about it.
On Sunday morning, several hundred bikers took part in the Black Dog Ride's iconic annual one-dayer aiming to start a national conversation about depression and suicide prevention.
"The ride was named after the late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's description of his depression as the 'Black Dog' and the Black Dog Association's mascot is a toy black dog named Winston," Charles Linsley, the co-ordinator of the event, said.
"The 116km round trip is an attempt to draw public attention to suicide and depression because it's a major problem in Australia which isn't discussed sufficiently due to the stigma surrounding it."
Mr Linsley said two types of people were taking part in the event.
"The first type are those who have experienced mental illness and the others were the lucky few who had never experienced depression but wanted to support it."
David Catchpole from the British Motorcyle Owners' Association of Mackay said he deals with men who work at a local Mackay crane manufacturing company which he manages.
"They are away from their homes and families and I'm aware that they struggle with depression and often have nobody to talk to, so I stop and listen to them," he said.
Addressing the crowd, Mackay Councillor Fran Mann said her brother had committed suicide at the age of 31 after falling into drug abuse which further exacerbated his mental illness.
Deputy principal of Mackay State High School Tania Cheers said not a year goes by without at least one person at her school being affected by suicide, either among the pupils or the staff.
Bruce Crowther, assistant ride co-ordinator, said government support for those struggling with mental illness had improved dramatically over the past decade since the Black Dog rides first began.
"The authorities are addressing the issue by providing various support groups with funds but these need to be channelled more efficiently," he said.