The Badass Way These Australian Bikers Are Bringing Suicide Awareness to the U.S.
For Steve Andrews, founder of Black Dog Rider, it all started after his best friend’s wife took her own life.
This wasn’t the first time his life had been touched by suicide — his own mother died by suicide years before. Andrews hadn’t known his mother was depressed until finding letters she’d written before her death. Similarly, his best friend Jack Michael’s wife Anna had kept quiet about her depression.
“There was all this depression, and the resulting suicides, and it wasn’t being discussed openly,” Andrews told The Mighty.
Feeling inspired to take action, he organized a solo motocycle ride across Australia. He stopped across the country to talk about depression and suicide and raised $34,000 for the Suicide Call Back Service. Word spread, more people wanted to join him, and Andrews, naming his efforts the Black Dog Ride, turned the project into a national suicide prevention charity.
Since that first ride in 2009, Andrews has organized 73 Black Dog Rides, raising a total of over $1,700,000 for mental health services nationwide, according to its website.
Now they’re bringing the ride and the conversation to America.
The group of 65 bikers, who left from New York City on Sunday, Sept. 13, are making their way to Los Angeles, tracking 4,350 miles in 21 days. According to its website, the group hopes to specifically engage American military veterans and first responders.
“The motorcyles create interest,” Andrews told The Mighty. “People see a group of bikes roll into town and they want to know what we’re about. Everywhere we go people talk to us.”
The ride also creates a safe space for the bikers involved, many of whom have a connection to suicide and depression, Andrews said.
“It’s amazing how many people have a connection to a cause,” Andrews said. “They look big and tough and bulletproof, but you give them a safe zone and they just open up.”
On the group’s Facebook page, Black Dog Rider Anny Seaton explains why she joined, opening up about her own experiences with depression.
“It gives me a choice,” she says. “I can spend a day or four in bed or spend four or more riding. That is a far better option.”
You can follow the riders using their itenerary and also on their Facebook page. The proceeds raised from this ride will go to Mental Health First Aid USA, providing scholarships for first responders and veterans to be trained in Mental Health First Aid, helping communities respond to mental health crises. Donations can be made here.
If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.