AFL legends to ride 1433km for suicide prevention

Originally published by the Herald Sun.

FOOTY greats will pedal 500m for every Aussie lost to suicide in a gruelling ride from Sydney to Melbourne as they fight to put the issue on the national agenda.

AFL superstars Wayne Schwass, Danny Frawley, Paul Licuria, Scott Cummings and Justin Koschitzke will hold their own experiences close to their hearts as they pedal 1433km in honour of the 2866 Australians who took their lives in 2016.

Schwass, the North Melbourne premiership great turned mental health advocate, said the Puka Up ride was about “giving people hope and a sense of connection”.

“We understand people may be really challenged by mental health conditions, but there’s so many people dealing with these conditions on a daily basis,” he said.

Frawley said it was good to get involved with a cause he had “lived and breathed”, with everyone taking part in the ride having some sort of link.

He hoped the event would help break down stigma on mental health issues.

“There’s still a stigma there with certain players and coaches that are afraid to put their hand up and say they’re battling and I can understand why — they think their jobs are in jeopardy and they shouldn’t have to feel like that,” he said.

The Puka Up ride is working in partnership with the Black Dog Institute.

Its director and chief scientist Prof Helen Christensen said “suicide is preventable”.

“We want to focus on the prevention end — there are ways to prevent depression,” she said.

‘Puka’ is a Hindi word meaning authentic and genuine, with the ride aptly named to encourage those conversations.

Thirty cyclists will start pedalling from Sydney on March 16.

Community forums will be held in regional areas along the way to Melbourne with the eight-day event ending at Etihad Stadium.

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Contact Lifeline for 24/7 crisis help on 13 11 14 or at