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Merv’s mission

Merv’s mission

Ebenezer’s Merv Storton is donning his leather jacket and helmet and joining nearly 500 bikies from around the nation for the annual Black Dog Ride.

A suicide prevention initiative, this year’s ride travels to Tasmania for the first time, with participants and support vehicles leaving en masse from major centres around the nation on route to Hobart, via the ferry.

For Merv, The Black Dog Ride is a life saver and one he credits for adding purpose to his life.

“I had a serious shot of depression myself,” explained Merv.

“I was just listening to the radio one morning and someone said they were looking for a support vehicle for this mob of blokes that were going to ride motorbikes to Alice Springs and I rang up and said I’ll do that…. that’s how it all started.

“That first year I thought right, I’m in a bit of strife here and I just did it for myself. I drove my ute as a back up support vehicle.”

That ride was back in 2009, and such were its benefits that now Merv, together with wife Julie, are Black Dog Ride state co-ordinators, organising state runs and fundraising events for the important cause.

“I come up with the ideas and Julie makes them happen!” Merv laughs.

Riders talk to one another and discover they are not alone, whilst the sights and sounds of hundreds of bikies also promotes awareness and understanding in the many towns visited along the way by participants travelling to Hobart from every state and territory.

“A lot of the riders have depression but not all,” said Merv.

“It does them a lot of good because people who have it can  mix with people who are virtually their own kind and everybody opens up.

 “When you have depression, you think you are the only person in the world that’s got it. I sort of got over it, but I don’t think you ever fully recover.”

Talking and helping people understand depression and highlighting the help available is at the centre of every Black Dog Ride, whether it’s a state or national event

“Eight people everyday in this country die of suicide. If that was the road toll, it would be a national disaster, yet we put depression in the cupboard and hide it. You don’t have to hide!”

This week’s ride to Tasmania co-incides with the launch of another suicide prevention campaign.

“Even Heroes Need A Hand” focuses on serving and ex defence personnel, as well as emergency workers, and will provide Mental Health First Aid training to help identify mental health episodes.

“This year, we are going to raise $300,000 to go into training some of our military staff and emergency people….it’s badly needed,” said Merv.

Knowing the importance of education, Merv is on a personal mission to bring more mental health support to youth, an area he feels is lacking in the Barossa.

“That’s my mission, to try and get something sorted down here like “Headspace” for youth. I really want to do stuff here,” he said.

Merv firmly believes if he had such a support service when he was young, he may have been able to understand his own depression better.

For the full story see this week’s edition of The Leader.

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