Adam Goodes has climbed to the top of Australian sport.
In 372 games for the Sydney Swans the South Australian marked the most fearsome opponents AFL had to offer.
The now retired star says his sporting achievements are put in perspective by the stalking presence of depression.
“It is dark and it is scary for those people that face it and they need to know there are people that can help,” he said.
Speaking exclusively to SBS World News on the roadside in Western Australia, Goodes reveals depression and mental health trauma is something he has seen those close to him battle with.
“Too many family members committed suicide. My wife’s mother when she was 14 which was really sad. Cousins, family members all because of mental health problems,” he said.
Goodes is one of 65 riders shining a spotlight on mental health, a number which has an obvious symmetry to the 65,000 people who attempt suicide each year.
The staggering country-wide impact inspiring the former Swan to cycle from Perth to Broome to raise funds for the mental health charity Black Dog Institute.
The group has already raised $290,000 and has opened dialogue about depression in their “Tour X Oz” adventure.
“This is about doing something positive. About raising awareness, about raising the profile. Especially for us men, Indigenous men and Indigenous community members, that it is okay to talk about our feelings. It is okay to not feel good about yourself as long as you talk about it,” says Goodes.
The Senior Research Fellow at UNSW and the Black Dog Institute, Dr Simon Rosenbaum, is also cycling to Broome and believes exercise is a realistic treatment pathway.
“There is a lot of evidence around the benefits of exercise and physical activity in improving mental health and mental well being. It can be an important part of treatment for people living with mental illness,” says Dr Rosenbaum.
“The challenge is trying to help people that are living with mental illness to actually get active. An event like this can help provide inspiration to those that are struggling to get more active.”
Cycling fundraiser a deeply personal journey for Former Australian of the Year Adam Goodes.SBS
SBS’s Tour de France host Mike Tomalaris has covered 22 editions of the world’s most famous cycling race. Riding for the second time in The Tour X Oz and for the first time alongside Adam Goodes has been immensely rewarding.
“It is very satisfying to know that we can make a difference through cycling. A lot of these people taking part in Tour X Oz are into the activity of cycling and through the growth of the sport in Australia and around the world they can do events like this.
They can jump on a bike for hours on end every day for eight days and in the process visit communities in remote parts of Australia and promote awareness of mental health issues,” says Tomalaris.
“It is a real eye opener. You get to see parts of Australia you have never seen before and chances are will never see again. And the beauty of it all is you can do it on two wheels.”
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.