“Tragically, two of my uncles died by suicide, within a decade of each other. Personally, the idea of the bike ride across the Nullarbor came about due to my family’s history of depression and suicide. We have a loving and accepting family, and both deaths were very difficult to come to terms with. It highlights the nature of mental illness. Both my uncles were obviously very unwell, but felt unable to discuss their illness with those that they were closest with.” Joey is part of the team of 11 medical students studying at Deakin University who are @CrossintheBor to raise awareness and funds for Mental Health. They will be joined by Joey’s friend who is a creative advertiser. I met most of the team today at Moby in Torquay. Donate here https://teamblackdog.everydayhero.com/au/crossin-the-bor
“We’ve almost raised our $30,000 target which will be going to www.blackdoginstitute.org.au but every bit helps. However, our most important message is to start the conversation. We are urging people to ask their friends and family about their mental wellbeing more often and with more intent to be good listeners and to respond to the answer they receive. Then to follow up by checking in on that person regularly. A scary statistic is that only 1/3 of people suffering will seek help.
“Mental illness is the largest global contributor to disability caused by disease, and yet is tackled with relative apathy by funding bodies and government in terms of funding for research. The reasons for this are complex, but stigma still contributes heavily. We believe the onus is on each of us to change the way we view mental illness as a society, from a taboo topic to one that is spoken about freely like other illnesses.”
These first- and second-year students have come from all over Australia to Deakin. They were brought together by the common desire to study medicine, but they also found they all had their own personal stories about being touched by mental health issues and have seen how it affects their families and friends.
Their medical studies revealed that Geelong has a higher incidence of mental health issues and suicide than the State average. Also, almost a quarter of Australian medical students have experienced suicidal thoughts. Students like them are also in the highest risk age group; in fact, suicide is the biggest killer of young people from the age of 15-44. These facts got the students thinking, talking and taking action by undertaking this charity ride.
Deakin’s ex-Dean of the School of Medicine employed a fulltime counsellor who carried out over 700 consultations last year. Other universities and medical schools around the country could follow suit.
“Our plan is to take 16 days to cover the 3,400km, this allows for 2 rest days. We’re tackling it like a relay, with 3 groups riding about 80km each to make up 250km a day. Half the riders are new to the sport and they are all training in preparation for this mammoth task.
“The biggest challenges are going to be the heat, lack of water and mind-numbing sameness of the long and lonely Eyre Highway which is Australia’s longest straight road”. Imagine riding a bike along a road with no turns or bends, across a vast featureless desert with a repetitive landscape and hundreds of kilometres between towns or roadhouses. Good luck guys!
“We head off after our exams on November 27th.” They all laughed when I asked if that was their idea of ‘schoolies’.
If you need to talk:
Lifeline: 131114 (24/7)
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
The Black Dog website have a ‘get help now’ tab (https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/getting-help/emergency) which lists emergency counselling services.
Photo and story: Jacqui Bennett