The Black Dog Ride

Posted on November 16, 2010


Steve Andrews @blackdogride came to Sydney from Perth, to present a cheque to the Black Dog Institute.

I like these videos of Steve and Professor Gordon Parker, Executive Director of The Black Dog Institute in Sydney @blackdoginst Steve speaks openly and honestly about his personal experiences of people close to him who’ve suffered depression and have taken their own lives.

What I really like, is that he’s not alone and he’s certainly not speaking in silence. He has the Black Dog Riders around him supporting him wholeheartedly, just as he supports them. You can hear the comaraderie.

Any organization is a product of the people in it. My first impressions of Steve Andrews is that he is a gentleman with empathy, humour and humility. At the grass roots, the coal face.

“He’s really inspiring for guys on the ride. He’s a very accessible guy, a classic leader,” one rider said.

As a father of five, he is familiar with nurturing. I saw some younger men looking up to him as a role model, perhaps men who haven’t had great father figures in their lives. I see him creating a community which I hope to see thrive.

Professor Parker says the rate of suicide in Australia has decreased because of destigmatisation.

Professor Parker says that it’s so important to talk openly about mental disorders such as depression, so that people seek help.

1 in 5 Australians will experience a mood disorder, 50% do not seek help, says Michael Sluis, Community Programs @blackdoginst

The rate of male suicide is higher than female. The profile of a man who is likely to suicide is single, unemployed, living alone, isolated, not having any significant social contact. Suicide often occurs within six months of the loss of a significant, and often the only meaningful relationship the person has. They’ve lost their meaningful connection with the world and feel isolated. At least 75% have used alcohol at the time of their suicide. They’re using alcohol to feel better as is common in our society. People use alcohol to feel better, but it comes with a consequence of impairing mental functioning and puts them in a position where it’s easier to act on how they feel. Alcohol abuse impairs the functioning of frontal lobes. You’re using a substance that removes your inhibitions, so it becomes easier to act on your impulses.

The Black Dog Ride is an open group of mainly men riding to the red centre on motorbikes to raise awareness about depression. There weren’t many women on the ride, yet as Steve shows in the video, this is an issue which is very important for women.

“individuals who were identified as victims of child sexual abuse (CSA) were significantly more likely to die from suicide or accidental drug overdose than individuals in the general population.”

Rates of suicide and accidental fatal drug overdose in male and female victims of CSA compared with the general population:


Female: 40 times higher risk of suicide

Male: 14 times more likely to suicide

Accidental fatal drug overdose:

Female: 88 times higher risk

Male: 38 times more likely

“victims who died as a result of self-harm were predominantly aged in their 30s at time of death. Most had contact with the public mental health system and half were recorded as being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.”

These videos have a couple of nice tie-ins with my life. I worked as a journalist at Imparja TV in Alice Springs. I enjoyed riding around Northern Vietnam on a Honda Dream. Steve came to my backyard to present the cheque and I’m a psychotherapist.

A bit of “synchronicity” occurred the next morning. I “bumped into” Steve after dropping my father at hospital where he was having radiation treatment.

From what I understand, people who suffer depression have a ‘negative cognitive set.’ Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) has been shown to be a most effective treatment administered in the setting of a therapeutic environment. Also taken into account should be childhood experiences that are now known to be contributary influences in its emergence. It takes years to create the way we think, so it takes time to change the way we think.

Let’s simplify the understanding of depression. There is no mysterious chemical abnormality that occurs in the brains of the sufferers of depression. That chemical abnormality has occurred early in the life of the sufferer. Babies left to cry in their first 12 months without actively being consoled and comforted (as in controlled crying) have their brains hard-wired to operate under the influence of high levels of stress chemicals. If you are brought up in that way then you’re at risk of that chemical abnormality occurring at stressful times later in your life.

My advice? If you’ve had traumatic experiences, find an experienced trauma-based therapist. Get an understanding of your symptoms, get to know yourself and learn to do what makes you feel good.

The Black Dog Ride is a great way to get the word out. The awesome fundraising efforts of @nathe were recognized

These guys: @blackdogride @hollingsworth @nathe @AndrewBlanda @RazChorev @snaglepus @Riding4aCause @case_pres @shanedphoto are active online.

Posted in: Trauma