In A Farmer's Own Words...
We receive a lot of email from Black Dog Riders and supporters. Some contain stories which really resonate with us and we share it with the Black Dog Ride family.
One such story from a bloke named Bill came through and we wanted to share it with you as his words reinforce to us all that Black Dog Ride is making a difference. Every conversation we have, every ride we do, is empowering people in even the most remote regions of Australia.
Below is Bill's email (edited for clarity) and my response.
"Hi my name is Bill, im from a rural town of Burra (SA), the black dog riders came through not long ago.
"Im a sufferer of depression, ive abused alcohol most of my life. It all stems from a shooting accident on my farm when I was just 14 years old where I killed a mate, im now 42. Ive had a lot of mental breakdowns, always wanted help but as you know depression is a hard thing to get help for unless you have the right support.
"After having a major breakdown two years ago in that I was hospitalized at Glenside I finally found the help id been looking for all those years. My life now has changed significantly for the better and now I want to help others. The help I got in hospital was fantastic but when I came back to the farm that's where it stopped.
"It was hard but I was very determined to get follow up treatment and councilling, after a lot of phone calls I got ongoing support that I needed. My point is that I had to do it. This shouldn't be the case, honestly there should have been a person in a supportive roll to help me settle in.
"A good friend in the same situation as me got out of hospital and took his own life, leaving his wife and 3 children behind only 12 months ago. In this area alone there has been over a dozen suicides in the last two years.
"Why I am contacting you is I realy want to do something to get awareness out there and help our farmers. Im in the early stages of planning something to raise this awareness and raise funds. Any advice and support from you would be greatly appreciated, im in the process of getting a support group together and will be looking at doing something next year. Unfortunatly a lot of farmers are experiencing tough times at the moment and im worried the problem of depression and suicide mite get worse. Im willing to put my story out there and hopefully in some way make a difference.
"Thanks for the work you do and I look forward to hearing back from you.
"Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. Your courageous words really hit home how important it is to raise awareness. The Black Dog Ride to the Red Centre isn't about the destination, but the journey. At every stop on the ride we meet people, especially in regional areas, who have been affected by depression or suicide. It is really good to hear that you've found the help you've needed and you're on the right track in managing your depression.
"The founder of Black Dog Ride, Steve Andrews, has had his own life touched by the tragedy of suicide, which ultimately sparked the need in him to get out in the community and start the conversation about depression and suicide. You can read more about Steve here. Steve recently said that "mental health is an issue that governments can't fix, we as a community need to fix it" and I think your experience highlights that fact. Unfortunately, and as is usually the case, you had to find out the hard the way that the government isn't providing the support needed, thus it falls on your shoulders.
"You're not alone Bill. Black Dog Ride began as one man's mission to raise awareness. All Steve had was his bike and his determination, and 3 years later, Black Dog Ride has raised over $500,000 for mental health services in addition to incalculable awareness raised in the community. You might be inspired to learn about the cattlemen of south west Western Australia and how they're helping Black Dog Ride raise awareness. You can read about how they raise awareness of depression in the farming community here and here. Next year, it looks like there will be a Black Dog Ride Muster! It only takes one man, a dogged determination and a good idea to get the ball rolling Bill.
"Starting a support group is a fantastic first step Bill. Getting the fellas together and having a yarn is the start of healing, and I have no doubt that the ideas and actions will start flowing once it gets off the ground. Black Dog Ride has a fantastic group of riders in SA who are very proactive and may be of assistance should you have an event or need a speaker sometime down the track.
"Thank you Bill, for contacting us. Please stay in touch.
Bill's experiences also highlight the inadequecies of the mental health system we rely upon, and we know many people in regional areas have similar experiences. By speaking up and sharing the strategies he used to get the support he needed, Bill will be changing lives, and perhaps even saving them.
Bill has maintained contact with us and is following his plans to raise awareness of depression and suicide prevention. If you are in that region and would like to help, please contact me here.
A very special shout out to all the Red Centre Riders, whose journey with Black Dog Ride has empowered people like Bill to step forward. Thank you, whether you rode part of the way or the whole distance, on a bike, scooter, support vehicle or pillion, your journey has touched the lives of people in the most meaningful way.
After seeing this blog, a local woman contacted Black Dog Ride to offer some advice for Bill. Mandy's words are below.
I just read bill's letter about his effort to raise awareness in his small country area.
My daughter-in-law to be…. He father suicided about 4 yrs ago…as a direct result, his wife set up a group for raising awareness about that black dog in our country town …. it is called gilsa ….. gilgandra suicide awareness……maybe he might like to contact them for some leads, tips, support etc…. contact via Gilgandra post office, 2827.
We are a small farming town and we have been told that now as harvest approaches, that council brings in or has on standby, councillors for the farmers in case the rains come and destroy the harvest…. There have been deaths directly related to loss of the crop….the depression beast is so strong in these crop reliant communities…….
Please pass this on to bill….it may give him some small help in both his personal efforts and his community drive…..
Please let us know what you think about Bill's experiences here.