Putting pedal to the metal for mental health
Most mornings, you'll find Mark Cassie cycling along the Bundaberg coastline.
It is part of his daily routine and just one of the strategies that has helped the 56-year-old on his road to recovery from depression.
Now, he is preparing to take on a new challenge - Wesley Mission Queensland's 220km Cycle for Mental Health - to raise money and awareness for the organisation's mental health and suicide prevention programs.
"Two years ago, I found myself trapped in the depths of depression. It was very challenging, and I found it hard to ask for help," Mr Cassie said.
"But I was fortunate to have the support of my family, my doctor and to find services like Wesley Mission Queensland's Marcus Mission program, which has provided me with the support, camaraderie and information I needed to help me recover.".
The 220km virtual ride, which will be held during Queensland Mental Health Week (10-18 October), is being run in collaboration with Chapter 10, a Gold Coast-based cycling group established by 35-year-old Dylan Rock, who lost his friend, Kyeema, to suicide in 2015.
It is Wesley Mission Queensland's first virtual fundraiser, raising much-needed funds for the organisation's suicide prevention programs.
Geoff Batkin, CEO of Wesley Mission Queensland, said COVID-19 had put additional pressure on the organisation's mental health and suicide prevention programs.
"Thousands of people have lost their jobs while others are dealing with social isolation and relationship and family issues, some may even have lost a loved one to COVID-19.
"All of these factors can take a serious toll on a person's mental health and wellbeing and this has been reflected in increased demand for our programs like Marcus Mission, which has received more than 30 requests for help in the past six months alone, many directly related to COVID-19," Mr Batkin said.
Suicide continued to be the leading cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15 and 44.
In 2018 there were 786 suicides in Queensland - that is 15 Queenslanders lost to suicide each week and almost 80% of these are men.
Mr Batkin said the impact of suicide on families and the community were devastating.
"Sadly, almost everyone knows someone who has been touched by the effects of suicide.
"It is complex issue, and it requires a whole-of-community approach. We work not only with those at-risk of suicide, but everyone around them - their families, friends, networks, and local community groups to build skills, knowledge, resources, and the capacity to tackle this issue," Mr Batkin said.
"It costs as little as $1,440 to provide one year's mentoring for someone struggling with thoughts of suicide. Every dollar donated will genuinely make a difference in the lives of hundreds of Queenslanders."
Mr Cassie, who is training to be a mentor with Marcus Mission, urged people to get behind the ride.
"I know what it feels like to be hit hard with depression and I know how important services like Marcus Mission are to helping people recover. Whether you want to jump a on a bike yourself, or donate a few dollars, it will help people in our community, and beyond, get the help and support they need," Mr Cassie said.
Riders can join the ride as an individual or create a virtual team for friends, family, or colleagues and can complete the challenge in one day, three days or across all seven days.
To register visit: www.wmq.org.au/virtualcycle
For more information about Wesley Mission Queensland's mental health and suicide prevention programs visit: https://www.wmq.org.au/mental-health-services