MORE than 180 cyclists are set to saddle up to raise awareness and funds for youth mental health, including Perth lawyer Hayley Lawrance.
The WestCycle director has been cycling on and off for around eight years, and will take on the Hawaiian Ride for Youth for the first time this March 26 to 30, pedalling 700km across regional Western Australia to support youth at risk of suicide and those living with mental health challenges.
“I’ve come to the Ride for Youth having had quite a break, so it was sort of me getting back on the bike,” Ms Lawrance said.
She will speak at a school along the ride to share the message with students that they are not alone.
“[Mental health is] a really challenging issue in our society. I think we’ve come a long way, but I think we have a long way to go,” she said.
“I feel as though having been a young person and having had issues and survived issues, it’s really important to get out there and be a role model and create a safe space for young people to reach out for help.
“I’m in my mid-forties now, but it’s taken me most of my adult life to get to the point where I feel safe coming out and saying ‘hey, I’ve had issues’.
“I don’t want young people to have to go through the same journey, I want to encourage people to reach out sooner.”
Ms Lawrance, who has a 19-year-old son, said she encouraged him to remember life was a marathon and not a sprint.
“As a teenager, often it’s the first time people have experienced a down and don’t realise the up will come and that life is a cycle. By the time you get to my age, time is a great equaliser,” she said.
“It’s also about being empathetic to young people, and understanding something can be quite traumatic – the first love, the first break-up, maybe falling out with a close friend. Sometimes as adults because we have the benefit of hindsight we tend to trivialise it a bit, but for young people it can be quite profound.”
Now in its 17th year, the Hawaiian Ride for Youth has raised $19.8m to help Youth Focus continue to provide free mental health services to thousands of young people each year.
This year, riders will visit 26 high schools and meet over 3800 students to share their stories and the importance of looking after mental health.
To find out more, visit rideforyouth.com.au.
If you are in a crisis and require urgent support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800. If you are between 12 and 25 and are feeling sad, lonely or depressed and have been for some time, you can contact Youth Focus on 6266 4333.