MENTAL health was impossible to ignore when a convoy of 64 cyclists rode into town as part of a fundraising effort to get people having conversations about how they are feeling on October 10.
After setting off from Adelaide eight days prior, the riders followed the Stuart Highway through the heart of the country to time its arrival in Katherine on World Mental Health Day.
The 3565-kilometre relay to Darwin was organised by TourXOz and brought together experienced riders and first-time adventurers to raise money for the Black Dog Institute.
TourXOz co-founder and ride organiser Neil Jackson praised the spirit of the community and said the cyclists and their 20 support crew had been welcomed with open arms in the Northern Territory.
“We’ve had amazing support in every place, particularly the Territory,” he told the Katherine Times after stepping out of the saddle after the ride from Mataranka.
“We walked into a pub in Alice [Springs] and we did the same in Tennant Creek, and they recognised us as the guys who were riding for mental health.”
An easterly wind gusting up to 48km/h provided a reprieve for the riders for the push into Katherine and Mr Jackson said the combination of a tailwind and smooth blacktop had allowed the group to make good time.
He admitted that the build-up had tested some of the less experienced cyclists.
Everyone talks about cancer and diabetes; let’s talk about mental health – it’s all the same.Ride organiser Neil Jackson
“The road was in really good nick, so we didn’t have a lot of potholes or anything like that,” he explained.
“We could get a good roll on.
“The last couple of days, we’ve been averaging about 33 or 34km/h, which is fabulous.
“We were moving territory pretty quickly.”
As the convoy prepared for the final leg of its journey to Darwin, Mr Jackson urged Katherinites to make discussions about mental health everyday occurrences.
“It’s okay to talk,” he said.
“Everyone talks about cancer and diabetes; let’s talk about mental health – it’s all the same.”
For support in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.