WHEN Cottesloe couple Connie and Jim Gugich rode their Honda “Shadow” from Perth to Karratha last month in honour of their daughter Chanel Nicholas, they knew she was with them the whole way.
There was the spontaneous rain shower when the heat was nearly getting the better of them and the sudden rainbow as more than 60 motorbikes arrived at a Karratha beach to farewell her.
Ms Nicholas took her own life in Karratha on December 29 after receiving treatment for anxiety and depression for the past 25 years.
The Gugich’s made the 1500km journey to join the 10th Black Dog Ride organised by the Pilbara Motorcycle Sisters on March 17, stopping at Geraldton where they got married and Port Hedland where Ms Nicholas was born, along the way.
“It was really quite spiritual,” Mrs Gugich said.
“We did this motorbike ride as a homage to her, it’s something we just wanted to do by ourselves.
“I wanted to bring awareness to what the Black Dog Ride is and get the conversation (about mental health) going.”
Ms Nicholas attended Sacred Heart College but left in Year 10 and, at her funeral held at Our Lady of Grace in North Beach, Mr Gugich told hundreds of mourners that was when the “black dog” became a part of her life.
He said his daughter would describe her head as a jigsaw puzzle with scattered pieces, not knowing how to put them together.
She was seeing a psychologist in Perth but Mrs Gugich said these services weren’t available in Karratha so she would have to fly back to Perth for help.
“She would have to disrupt her routine and come down here,” Mrs Gugich said.
The family took the full brunt of Ms Nicholas’ dark times but it only made them closer.
They spent Christmas together and were supposed to holiday as a family on Rottnest Island straight after.
“She was going to come over but she didn’t, she went back to Karratha on the 28th,” Mrs Gugich said.
“She seemed so happy.
“We had a beautiful family get together before we went to Rottnest.
“This is happening to too many people and they are just normal everyday people.”