Black Dog Ride - How it Began

Anna Michael. A vibrant woman with a bright smile, a wife and a mother of two. Her sudden and tragic suicide following a silent struggle with depression was the catalyst for the inaugural Black Dog Ride in 2009.

In 2008 I received a phone call from an old friend David who had not long ago lost his wife in a tragic domestic accident. She, as I later found out, had suffered from depression and although it did not cause her death directly, it may have ultimately been a contributing factor. David's phone call left me in stunned disbelief.

My best friend Jack, best man at my wedding, had just discovered his beautiful wife Anna had drowned herself in the river near the family home. How could this be? The last time I had seen them was at my 2nd daughter's wedding. They were so happy and had such fun. In my mind it was inconceivable that they had gone from that to Anna ending her life.

Anna Michael

Over the next few days I learned that Anna had battled with depression for many years and that Jack had only discovered this 12 months earlier when she had attempted suicide. Why hadn't Anna talked to Jack about her despair and feelings of hopelessness, and why didn't Jack talk to his best friend when he became aware of the problem? Could it have been the stigma which seems to be attached to mental illness that makes it a taboo subject to talk about?

I knew that I had to do something.

It was at Anna's wake that all of these thoughts and questions crystallized in my mind and I knew that I had to do something, anything, to fight this epidemic of depression which seemed to be surrounding me. An old family friend of my wife Jennifer was at the bar of the yacht club where the wake was held. He and Jen were talking about why we were there when much to her surprise and shock he admitted that he suffered from depression. At first he was actually quite reluctant to talk about it but Jen is a good listener and he opened up as the conversation evolved. Basically he didn't confide in his friends or workmates that he had the illness for fear that he would be perceived as weak. This was a mature successful businessman, competitive sailor and great family man who was scared to talk about something which changed his life substantially in such a negative way.

Hearing of this I knew there and then what I was going to do to make a difference. I had long held a dream to ride around Australia and here was a purpose, a compelling, driving reason for me to fulfill that dream and at the same time raise much needed awareness about the insidious nature of depression.

Best mates: Jack Michael and Steve Andrews

Best mates, Jack Michael and Steve Andrews. The sudden suicide of Jack's wife Anna was the catalyst for Steve creating Black Dog Ride. Click on the image to read the article.

Following twelve months of planning I set off from Busselton in WA on 26 July 2009 for the inaugural solo Black Dog Ride around Australia. 26 days, $34, 232.80 fundraised, and 15,000kms later and I knew that I had been successful in my mission to raise awareness but I also knew that it was just the beginning.

Please remember, depression is an illness not a weakness and effective treatments are available. It is ok to reach out for help; it's ok to talk about the way you feel. You don't have to battle it on your own.

-Steve Andrews

Read how Black Dog Ride has been raising awareness of depression since the inaugural ride here

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