Let's Talk riders stop in Port Augusta

MENTAL HEALTH: Members of the Let's Talk Foundation arrived in Port Augusta to raise awareness about mental illness. PHOTO: Let's Talk.
MENTAL HEALTH: Members of the Let's Talk Foundation arrived in Port Augusta to raise awareness about mental illness. PHOTO: Let's Talk.

A group of cyclists from South West Victoria made a pit-stop at the St Augustine's Anglican Church on Wednesday to help raise awareness about mental illness.

The group of nine riders and six support crew belong to the Let's Talk Foundation, which was formed with a goal to break mental health stigma.

The Let's Talk members commenced a 3280-kilometre ride from Perth to Warrnambool on March 11, with an aim to complete the journey in 14 days.

Mental health nurse and Let's Talk member John Parkinson said people across the country have been embracing the group and its message.

"People have experienced suicide, anxiety, depression and they've hidden away for years," Mr Parkinson said.

"Now all of a sudden because we're wearing the Let's Talk logo and we present ourselves in an open and caring way, they begin to talk."

During the presentation at the church, Mr Parkinson and fellow member Mark Powell discussed the cultural attitudes - denial, secrecy and avoidance - that come as a result of mental health stigma.

According to Let's Talk, the "game changers" to break the stigma are acceptance, openness and helpfulness.

Mr Parkinson also said language is an important factor that can detract people from opening up, urging people not to use words such as "loony", "psycho" and "nutter".

"That language really prevents people from feeling like they have permission to talk because they're already being judged," he said.

He added it was important to make people feel comfortable to open up and converse about the "good, bad and the ugly".

"The fact that people are suffering depression and anxiety to the point where they are making the choice to take their own lives is because of the stigma that stops them from opening up and sharing their problems the way they should," Mr Parkinson said.

Encountering strong winds and extreme heat along the way, the ride has been more challenging than the riders had expected.

However, Mr Powell said the ride has helped the organisation raise awareness about mental illness and listen to some powerful stories along the way.

"We have about half a dozen organised events, but there's been a lot of informal chats," Mr Powell said.

"We always wear our Let's Talk shirts, so people come up and ask us what it's all about.

"Our support crew has got UHF radio, so they're talking to all the truck drivers, letting them all know there's bike riders ahead, but then also talking to them about Let's Talk and what it's all about."

The riders stop in Claire, Tailem Bend and Naracoorte, before finishing up in Warrnambool on March 24.

For more information about Let's Talk, click here.

GUEST SPEAKERS: Mark Powell and John Parkinson from the Let's Talk Foundation during the presentation at St Augustine's Anglican Church.

GUEST SPEAKERS: Mark Powell and John Parkinson from the Let's Talk Foundation during the presentation at St Augustine's Anglican Church.