Black dogs bike on

The Black Dog Ride at its completion in the red centre last year. The ride is a national suicide prevention charity whose mission is to raise awareness of depression and suicide prevention.
The Black Dog Ride at its completion in the red centre last year. The ride is a national suicide prevention charity whose mission is to raise awareness of depression and suicide prevention.

THE noise as a convoy of bikes roared into Naracoorte on Sunday afternoon turned plenty of heads.

The riders were not a bikie gang seeking a new place to congregate, but were rather a bunch of charitable individuals raising awareness about depression on a ride to Uluru.

The "Black Dog Ride", now in its sixth year, is a national suicide prevention charity whose mission is to raise awareness about depression and suicide prevention.

Dozens of SA motorcycle riders have embarked on an almost 2900km journey from the Adelaide Hills to Uluru as part of the annual Ride to the Red Centre tour, which departs from all states and territories and heads towards the natural landmark.

SA organiser Merv Storton said the ride had been going well so far, with the weather being pretty kind to the riders.

"We've had some pretty nice riding weather so far, beyond the odd shower or two," he said.

"But everyone is in good spirits and the whole ride is set to spread a very important message. We've been doing this for five years now so people are starting to recognise us.

"We often get people coming up for a chat and everyone in the group is always happy to let people know who we are and what we're doing."

On Sunday the large group of about 50 riders caused a bit of a stir when they pulled up around the town square for a quick break and chance to refresh.

This year's ride is larger than ever before, with 500 Black Dog Riders across the country set to undertake the epic ride.

"Fostering awareness of depression and suicide prevention in communities is the best catalyst for prevention," Black Dog Ride founder Steve Andrews said.

After a series of unfortunate and heartbreaking events that affected his friendship group and family, Steve knew something needed to be done to combat the stigma and silence surrounding depression.

Five years ago, Steve found himself at the funeral of his best friend's wife whose life was cut short by a silent struggle with depression.

Standing at her wake, Steve felt the need to raise community awareness of depression and to create a national conversation so that people living with mental ill health feel able to talk about it and seek support.

Tragically, Steve's own mother had also taken her own life years earlier.

In 2009, Steve embarked on a solo month-long motorbike journey around Australia, raising $34,000 for the Suicide Call Back Service and engaging thousands of Australians with his message of awareness.

With him on his ride, Steve took a black dog soft toy, representing the black dog of depression Winston Churchill famously diarised.

Steve called the dog Winston, and his tour the Black Dog Ride.

Only five short years after the inaugural Black Dog Ride, thousands of Australians have joined Steve on the road to raise awareness, and have raised over $1,800,000 for mental health services nationwide.

Funds raised by Black Dog Riders will support the rollout of Mental Health First Aid's Teen Program to Australian Schools nationwide, and to build the capacity of Lifeline's online Crisis Support Chat service.

The SA riders have already passed through Meningie, Kingston and Mount Gambier after departing from Woodside.

The SA Ride to the Red Centre will also pass through towns including Loxton, Berri, Port Augusta and Coober Pedy on the way to Uluru.