Cyclists sizzle in effort to help youth mental health

Sjanna SandalovaGreat Southern Herald

A total of 172 riders cycled across 3000km of regional WA in hot temperatures in a bid to raise funds to help Youth Focus turn the tide on suicide — visiting 23 high schools along the way.

Deputy Premier and Mental Health Minister Roger Cook and former West Coast Eagles star Beau Waters were among the group of cyclists taking part in the 2018 Hawaiian Ride for Youth.

The ride, in its 16th year, kicked off on March 20 and travelled through several regional towns, including Katanning, Narrogin, Gnowangerup and Frankland River, as well coastal and Mid West centres.

The group of 35 cyclists doing the Wheatbelt route stopped at Katanning Senior High School and Kojonup District High School on Wednesday, March 21, where they engaged with students on the importance of good mental health and emotional well-being.

Youth Focus board director and rider Paul Larson said the ride was about getting like-minded people together who wanted to help children.

The cyclists rest up after a 40km ride in 35 degree heat
Camera IconThe cyclists rest up after a 40km ride in 35 degree heat Credit: Sjanna Sandalova

“A lot of the riders, including myself, have teenage kids and a lot of us have had to utilise Youth Focus’ services, so for us it’s about giving back,” he said.

“All the money raised goes towards free counselling services in towns, including Katanning and Kojonup.

“It has been really tough because the weather conditions have not been easy, but if we can help one teenager and their family then it’s all worth it.”

Youth Focus provides free counselling services to youth aged between 12 and 25 to help them deal with anxiety and depression, and focusing on suicide prevention.

“We are just trying to reach as many kids as we can — we touch about 2800 kids a year and that’s only scraping the surface, so we want to be able to reach further, including into the regions,” Mr Larson said.

“The response from the kids has been very positive — they’ve been asking many insightful questions, and we actually had someone reach out for help during our visit to one of the schools.”

Since 2003, the Hawaiian Ride for Youth has raised more than $17.5 million.

Youth Focus general manager of operations Emma Brierty said the purpose of the school visits was to raise awareness of mental health and ensure students felt comfortable speaking out.

“We really want the kids to understand that term of a ‘safe place’ and making sure they know about all their options, including friends family and coaching services,” she said.

“It’s about teaching the students to look out for each other and notice when there is something wrong, they know what they can do to get the help they need.”

Each rider must commit to raise at least $5000 to participate in the ride.

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