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Why we’re riding 700km across WA this week

In Western Australia last year 51 young people suicided – almost one death a week.

Youth suicide is the biggest single killer of our nation’s young people.

This is a hard fact to hear and an even harder one to comprehend. But this week the shocking reality of the rate of youth suicide in our community provides all the motivation required for our group of more than 170 cyclists to ride 700km in four and a half days.

After six months of hard training and fund raising, riders in the annual Hawaiian Ride for Youth will today begin the long journey from Albany or Jurien Bay back to Perth.

To have made it this far, every rider has raised at least $5000 and attended three training sessions every week from October to March – riding about 7000kms in six months.

Karen Brown (left) and her team during an early-morning training session.

Along the four routes travelled by the pelotons during ride week, the riders will visit dozens of high schools to discuss with young people the importance of sharing information about mental health issues.

Many riders have deeply personal stories to share of their own experience of dealing with mental health issues as a young person. Some have experienced the loss of a loved one to suicide and talk about how that loss has shaped their lives. All have a desire to make a difference by making it clear to the young people we meet that they are not alone.

Every year, the Western Australian charity Youth Focus provides free counselling to young people to address symptoms associated with depression, anxiety and self-harm. At every school the riders visit, students are introduced to local counsellors and reminded that help is just a phone call or visit away.

Students are also encouraged to think about the role they can play in supporting their friends and family members who might be experiencing mental health issues. Removing the stigma associated with mental health is a key objective of the ride and it is one to which the riders can contribute, long after the kilometres are behind us.

Indeed, it is a responsibility we all share. Each of us can help build understanding and empathy in our workplaces, our sporting clubs, our schools, our universities and our families. We can talk and listen and share our experiences in a bid to create environments in which others feel safe to share, knowing they will not be judged, marginalised or disadvantaged.

And we can all support the young people in our lives to build resilience and find purpose and to know that they do not need to deal with mental health issues alone.

As we ride this week we will each reflect on the shocking suicide statistics that motivate us all to tackle the next kilometre and the long road ahead in the hope that together we can make a difference.

Karen Brown is Cannings Purple’s National Director and will be tackling her third Hawaiian Ride For Youth in a team sponsored by the WA Primary Health Alliance.

You can support her efforts HERE.

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