NORTH Melbourne AFL premiership player Wayne Schwass is riding back into Ballarat on Wednesday to keep sparking conversations about suicide prevention.
The dedicated mental health advocate waited until after this playing days to speak out about what he calls his "silent war" with depression amid a glory era with the Kangaroos.
Leading a lycra-clad convoy, Schwass remains determined to get more people talking with the ultimate goal to stamp out suicide. He says mental health conditions do not discriminate between class or career.
Everyone at the club is right behind @WayneSchwass and the 28 riders taking part in the @Puka_Up Bike Ride for Suicide Prevention, starting today.— North Melbourne (@NMFCOfficial) March 15, 2018
If you missed 'A Silent War', Wayne's amazingly brave & honest documentary, watch here: https://t.co/CrBBM4PmDdpic.twitter.com/oH2Mu8fIkB
Puka Up Grand Tour returns to Ballarat and, after visiting St Patrick's College last year, riders will meet with Reece Plumbing staff and partners.
Schwass said statistics showed suicide rates were higher in regional Australia, which helped set the course for Puka Up in its tour through Victoria.
Ballarat has one of the highest suicide rates in Australia with 16.7 suicide deaths per 100,000 people each year, according to the federal government's National Cities Performance Framework.
About eight Australians die by suicide every day.
Schwass said it was important to empower communities in developing tools to maintain their emotional well-being. He founded Puka Up as a social enterprise to get people talking about mental health without fear or judgement.
“You’ll often see riders looking out for each other in a peloton, checking in on someone who is struggling. We want to translate that skill into everyday life where people have the confidence to approach anyone and ask if they are okay,” Schwass said.
“The forum is an opportunity to bring the local community together and have some genuine and authentic conversations about mental health and suicide prevention in a safe environment."
Schwass' Puka Up Grand Tour has been weaving its way across regional Victoria since March 8. The ride will arrive in Ballarat from Bendigo via Maryborough in a 129-kilometre leg before setting off for Nagambie for the penultimate stage via Daylesford, Castlemaine and Heathcote.
AFL identity and former prolific goal kicker Scott Cummings and dual Sydney Swans premiership player Ryan O'Keefe are also taking part in the ride.
Cummings is business director with an infrastructure consulting firm which is a joint sponsor for the ride. He said the building industry was too heavily represented in the nation's suicide rate.
"By normalising the conversation around mental health and removing the stigmas attached we can help to save lives," Cummings said.
If you or someone you know is in need of crisis support, phone Lifeline 13 11 14.
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