After losing his best friend to suicide, Penrith resident Jason Kennedy has made it his mission to spread one very important message – it’s okay to speak up.
Coordinating this year’s Black Dog Ride, Mr Kennedy will join 1000 participants on a 2.5 hour motorbike ride to raise vital funds for mental health services.
The group will start from Cables Aqua Park and travel via Burragorang and Warragamba and back to Wallacia Hotel for raffles, auctions and live entertainment.
Mr Kennedy said the day is all about starting important conversations.
“When I lost my best friend to suicide I just didn’t have a good understanding of it and it wasn’t until I really went through a bit of a depression myself that I understood where he was at and I realise now how important it is now to keep people talking,” he said.
“When you have so many people on motorcycles, you have so many conversations with people so it’s not just about raising the funds but spreading awareness and starting that conversation with people, it’s amazing how many open up.”
In Penrith, 1 in 10 adults and 15.4 per cent of young people report having high psychological distress.
A 16-year-old who attempted to commit suicide will be sharing her story.
“I don’t think people realise how common it just is and it’s only increasing so it’s really important that people know they aren’t alone,” Mr Kennedy said.
“Quite a lot of the people who come on the ride have lost children, friends, family or partners to suicide, it can be a really sombre experience for some that are going through that, then some people are just there because they love motorcycles, it’s a very big mix of people.”
The money raised will go into a pool of funds and organisations that need assistance that wouldn’t normally get Government funding can put in an application to receive a grant.
The ride will commence on Sunday, March 17 at 9am.
Registration is still open for riders keen to take part.
To find out more or to register, visit www.blackdogride.com.au.
A graduate of Western Sydney University, Nicola Barton is a news journalist with the Western Weekender, primarily covering crime and politics.