Black Dog Ride 2017 leaves from Canberra to Tasmania

Graham Falconer, Nerolie Falconer, Deanne Lasscock and Col Lasscock prepare for the Black Dog Ride to Tasmania. Deanne and Col ride for their son Jay Lasscock who passed away in 2012. Photo: Elliot Williams
Graham Falconer, Nerolie Falconer, Deanne Lasscock and Col Lasscock prepare for the Black Dog Ride to Tasmania. Deanne and Col ride for their son Jay Lasscock who passed away in 2012. Photo: Elliot Williams

You could forgive anyone for losing hope if they lost a child, for retreating from society when life had struck one of its cruelest blows.

However, when Queanbeyan couple Col and Deanne Lasscock lost their son Jay at age 24 they refused to shy away from the difficult truth.

Jay Lasscock, the fun-loving, young father of three and captain of the Queanbeyan Blues, committed suicide in 2012.

Nobody saw it coming. It left Jay’s teammates, his wife and Col and Deanne completely blindsided.

The ACT and NSW Black Dog Ride contingent left from the War Memorial on Tuesday. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The ACT and NSW Black Dog Ride contingent left from the War Memorial on Tuesday. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

This motivated the Lasscocks to become heavily involved in the Black Dog Ride for suicide prevention and they are about to start their fourth ride.

On Tuesday more than 70 motorcyclists, representing the ACT and New South Wales Black Dog contingent, began their ride in Canberra for the first time.

They gathered at the War Memorial to share stories before taking off on their 1400 kilometre journey to Hobart where they will meet groups from each state in Australia.

In Australia eight people take their own lives each day.

The Black Dog Ride mascot Winston is named after Winston Churchill who famously wrote about "the black dog of depression". Photo: Elliot Williams

The Black Dog Ride mascot Winston is named after Winston Churchill who famously wrote about "the black dog of depression". Photo: Elliot Williams

As Mrs Lasscock puts it, the ride is about “remembering who we’ve lost and realising it’s time we don’t lose any more.”

Mrs Lasscock said the ride attracts a wide variety of people from others who have lost a loved one and people dealing with mental health issues to those that just love riding motorbikes.

The Lasscocks met Graham and Nerolie Falconer while riding for Black Dog and have bonded over a shared passion for raising awareness of the cause.

Mrs Falconer said the rides were an eye-opening experience about what some people go through.

“It’s not until you hear their stories that you realise where they are, or where they’ve been or how they’ve struggled,” she said.

Riders taking off for Tasmania on Tuesday. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Riders taking off for Tasmania on Tuesday. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Mr Lasscock added: “We often pull into country towns and people start asking about who we are and what we’re about and that helps start the conversation.”

He said when the family lost Jay he learned at his workplace there were six people who had also lost a loved one to suicide. He was shocked both by its prevalence and that so many people were previously unwilling to talk about the issue.

Despite the great sadness that accompanies any suicide everyone agreed the ride was an overwhelmingly positive experience.

Mr Falconer shared an experience where a woman he’d never met came up and hugged him saying “you have no idea what you’ve done”.

“She told me I’d ridden with her husband,” Mr Falconer said.

“She said he was planning what he wanted to do for the ride the following year. Before that he wasn’t planning ahead one week.”

Proceeds from the ride are shared between mental health organisations such as Lifeline and Mental Health First Aid Australia.

Mrs Lasscock said she hoped to see mental health first aid taught at high schools and for Lifeline to be in a position where no phone call is left unanswered.

“We just really want people to realise you might be in a bad spot today, but that might change next week,” she said.

“We want people to ring Lifeline or Menslink or whoever instead of taking that last final step.”

You can support Col and Deanne’s efforts for the Black Dog Ride on their fundraising page.

  •  Lifeline: 131 114