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Bikies ride for depression

Tuesday, 20th August, 2013

The head biker for the NSW leg, Phillip Waesch, prepares to head to Peterborough on the Black Dog Ride yesterday morning. The head biker for the NSW leg, Phillip Waesch, prepares to head to Peterborough on the Black Dog Ride yesterday morning.

By Kurtis J Eichler

As a paramedic and a family man in Sydney, Paul Riley saw the horrors of suicide first hand.

“I know that mental health is a huge problem,” Mr Riley says.

“I’ve experienced it amongst family and amongst friends so I heard of this Black Dog Ride and thought it was a good thing. It seemed to be gathering a lot of momentum.”

The leather-clad businessman was one of 80 motorcyclists who rolled into the city on Sunday night for the NSW leg of the Black Dog Ride - which is now in its fifth year.

The ride raises awareness of depression and suicide prevention and sees rev-heads from every corner of the country hitting the highways.

The pack will travel almost 3000km for the cause on their way from Sydney to Alice Springs, via places including Nyngan, Broken Hill and Coober Pedy.

The head biker for the NSW leg, Phillip Waesch, said the bikes usually get people normally reluctant to talk about depression opening up.

“They see all the stickers and the black dogs on the bikes and it makes them ask questions,” Mr Waesch said.

“They ask what the black dogs are for and when we tell them they usually say ‘I’ve been a sufferer’ or they know someone who’s been a sufferer.”

Mr Waesch - who has battled depression himself - described it as a cancer with no age limit.

“The biggest problem is no one talks about it and they sit in a corner and they just go down that long and lonely road where there’s no help.”

Britain’s wartime leader Winston Churchill fought depression all his life, referring to it as the “black dog” - hence the name of the ride.

Churchill would sometimes break down after hearing bad news from the war and often sought solace in a tumbler of whiskey and a cigar.

For its par, the riders had a cooked meal courtesy of the Lions Club at the West Football Club on Sunday night and enjoyed a cooked breakfast at the Pig and Whistle yesterday.

Most of the riders headed to Peterborough yesterday morning while some others started the trip back home.

When the group gets to Port Augusta they will meet up with the South Australian and Western Australian packs before heading to the red centre.

Channel Nine reporter Simon Bouda covered the ride for the Sydney bureau last year. While not in front of the lens this year for the ride, he still keenly saddles up.

“I think depression is just such a massive issue,” Mr Bouda said.

“There are a lot of farmers out there doing it so tough they take their lives and that’s really hard.

“At the end of the day if we can somehow save one person as we are going around, well, that’s a fantastic result.”

The response this year has been good. Mr Riley says he’s been amazed by the amount of money given to him and his colleagues.

“It’s a real touchstone for so many people.”

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