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Black Dog Ride: opening up a conversation on mental health

You don’t need a therapist if you have a motorcycle

You have probably heard this say:

“You don’t need a therapist if you have a motorcycle”. 

This is certainly true and can provoke a smile, however mental health is a very serious and important topic that unfortunately often passes unobserved. 

Luckily, there are many motorcycle enthusiasts that do their part to raise awareness and try to make a difference.

There are countless rides and rallies around the world that you can join and a lot of them are organized to raise awareness (and money) for a good cause

I have written about The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride in my last article. 

Today is the turn of the Black Dog Ride.

The Black Dog Ride brings us “Down Under”, as the Aussies affectionately call Australia. 

Held in more than 40 locations across the country, millions of Australian riders come together each year’s third Sunday of March to amplify a message of awareness and prevention.

The main goal is to promote a national conversation about depression and suicide prevention

This is an important conversation to have, given that mental illness is very common. 

One in five Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness every year. The most common conditions are depression and anxiety.
One in five Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness every year. The most common conditions are depression and anxiety.

The worst part is that half of the people with a mental illness don’t access treatment because of the socio-cultural stigma associated with having one. 

In particular, men are less likely to seek help, although they are the group at the greatest risk of taking their lives because of mental illnesses. Other groups at great risk of depression and suicide include Indigenous Australians and the LGBTQ+ community, especially in rural areas.

In this scenario, occasions of encounters such as the one organized by the volunteers of the Black Dog Ride are what can make people realize that there is nothing wrong with asking for help and support in difficult times. 

While fighting for a good cause, the Black Dog Ride is also a cultural event that connects two-wheeled lovers around Australia.

Black Dog Ride: the origins

It all started back in 2009. One day, after hearing the news that the wife of one of his best mates passed because of suicide, Steve Andrews decided that he wanted to do something to change things. 

Andrews, a passionate rider, had dreamed for a long to ride around Australia. Enlighten with a purpose, he fulfilled his dream while spreading knowledge about depression and suicide to fight these taboos. 

After a year of planning, Andrews started his ride from Busselton in Western Australia. 26 days and 15,000 km later, he raised around $34,000 AUD for the Suicide Call Back Service. 

black dog of depression is the symbol of the black dog ride
The “black dog of depression” is the symbol of the Black Dog Ride

During his ride, Andrews had a very special companion: a black dog toy called Winston, representing the “black dog of depression” which Winston Churchill famously described in his diaries. 

One year later, thousands of Australians, reunited under the same banner, the black dog, joined the newly established Black Dog Ride.

The ride is usually around 3,000 km, or it lasts for one week (not including the trip home). This long-distance travel allows coming into contact with regional communities (rural and not) to raise awareness of mental health.

Riding and fundraising

As the official statement of the Black Dog Ride claims, fundraising is a secondary goal of the enterprise, although an important one. In 2019, the Black Dog Ride launched a program called “Community Grants” to manage and distribute the funds.

Through this program, the money raised is directed into community-based initiatives across the country in line with the Black Dog Ride’s aim of making an impact on society. For instance, the grants are used to fund the “Mental Health First Aid instructor program” in the Great Southern region (Western Australia). 

Another activity funded is the “Talk Out Loud” not-for-profit organization, based in Adelaide, which provides harm prevention initiatives and activities targeted primarily at young people under 30 and their families. 

Besides funding smaller organizations, the Black Dog Ride has partnered with and supported, since its inception in 2010, large not-for-profits such as LifeLine and the Black Dog Institute, a Sydney-based facility for the diagnosis and treatment of mood disorders.

Donations keep the wheels turning for the Black Dog Ride’s initiatives. If you want to be part of the change, it’s always possible to donate online through the official Black Dog Ride website. But if you are in Australia (living there or just traveling), there are some other options. 

While the annual ride happened this past March, another special ride is coming up – and the annual 1 Dayer ride, the 2023 edition, is already in the making!

Third’s time the charm!

The first-ever Black Dog Ride, in 2010, was an amazing journey to the Red Centre, the pulsing heart of the Australian outback. 

The Red Centre is full of breathtaking landscapes: desert plains, canyons, rocky gorges, and one of Aboriginal Australia’s most sacred sites, the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, also known as Ayers Rock. 

This epic ride was meant to be repeated in 2020… but Covid happened. 

It was scheduled again in 2021… but more restrictions were implemented because of the pandemic, and the ride was canceled again.

So, yeah: third’s time the charm. 

Riders from all states and territories will travel in groups and meet up at the final destination of this very special Black Dog Ride: the small town of Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory, just one step – I mean, ride – from the Red Centre.

To take part in the ride, there’s a ticket to buy: the price varies from $100 to $395 AUD, which covers a fully organized ride – the final itineraries are currently under development -, the backup of a Support Vehicle en route to Alice Springs, official merchandising, and the final Black Dog Ride Red Centre 2022 celebration dinner, that will take place Saturday 13th, August.

Registrations to ride all the way to Alice Springs with the Black Dog Ride are strictly limited, and they will close at 5pm AEST, 30th July 2022 (or when all places are filled).

So if you would like to participate, be sure to make up your mind as soon as possible: then visit the Black Dog Ride website, book the ride from one of the starting points available… and get ready to ride!

The Black Dog Ride: 2023 edition (plus a 2022 bonus!)

If you can’t make it for the Red Centre ride, don’t worry! The Black Dog Ride 2023 edition is already in the making.

It will take place Sunday 19th, March 2023. By registering and buying the ticket (for $30 AUD), you will receive the rider’s kit, including a patch and biker stickers. 

In the meantime, if you are feeling lucky, try your chance to win big! 

Starting in March, the Black Dog Ride is proposing a special Raffle: the grand prize is a brand new 2022 Indian Challenger Limited. The other prizes are 5 Indian Motorcycle merchandise packs.

The entry ticket costs only $10 AUD, and the Raffle closes on 1st September 2022.  

But hurry: there are only 10,000 tickets available. 

What’s better than supporting a good cause and getting a shot to win fabulous prizes?

For more info:

Marica Felici
Marica Felici
Writer at RnT, anthropologist and historian, I am a hopeless wanderluster. I've been traveling since I was a child, and growing up my desire to explore far and wide couldn't be stopped. My biggest dream was to travel in the United States, and I did it for a while – but, honestly, not enough. Next time, you will see me on a Harley-Davidson wandering Route 66. In the meantime, I work as a freelance writer and translator, and I do what my heart wants the most: traveling the world.

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