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On 3 May fourteen amateur bike riders, many employees of the leading for-purpose mental health and community services organisation Wellways Australia, will embark on a 550 km journey to promote suicide safe communities impacted by COVID, bushfires and ongoing drought across the Murrumbidgee region.

Starting their ride in Wagga Wagga, the riders will visit the communities of Gundagai, Tumbarumba, Gerogery and Urana to conduct suicide prevention information sessions and Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) training along the way to help equip communities with the tools they need to create and maintain suicide safe communities.

Wellways regional manager Zoe Evans, who participated in the first ride in 2018, said communities across the Murrumbidgee really appreciate the messages and support the riders bring to the towns each year. The ride also promotes the mental health benefits of exercise.

“Cycling across the Snowy Mountains will be a huge physical challenge for our riders to undertake but riding up steep hills is nothing compared to the challenges facing many within the Murrumbidgee community to stay mentally healthy,” said Ms Evans.

“Our message is a simple one: it’s healthy to talk about how we really feel and our mental health.

“By having simple conversations, you can help break the cycle of negative thinking. It’s also important to provide opportunities for people to seek help and support to share that journey,” Ms Evans said.

Wellways will run free interactive workshops and information sessions to explore some of the myths around suicide, how to recognise warning signs, what questions to ask to support understanding and how to refer to appropriate support services and aftercare.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44 years of age and has a devastating impact on families, friends and communities. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, more than 3000 Australians lives are cut short by suicide each year - almost three times the national annual road toll.