MHFA Australia thanks
Black Dog Ride

The 2013 Ride to the Red Centre raised $360,000 for Lifeline Australia and MHFA Australia, the most ever raised in a single ride in the four years since Black Dog Ride was founded.

Here, the Mental Health First Aid Australia Team takes the time to thank Black Dog Ride for the significant impact Black Dog Ride has had upon improving the mental health awareness across the nation.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Australia feels so fortunate to have been chosen as a beneficiary, along with Lifeline Australia, of this year's Black Dog Ride to the Red Centre. We would like to sincerely thank National Coordinator Steve Andrews, the rest of the Black Dog Ride Team, all of the generous donors and of course the inspiring riders who devoted their time, energy and passion to raising awareness of depression and other mental illnesses across Australia.

This donation came at a wonderful time for MHFA Australia. In August last year, we moved out of an auspiced position and established ourselves as an independent national not-for-profit organisation focused on training and research. We were lucky enough to start-up (or 're-start') with a grant from the Australian Government's Department of Health and Ageing, who provided funds for the development of tailored MHFA Courses for Frontline workers (nursing and medical students, and financial counselors).

Betty Kitchener, Steve Andrews and Petrina Stamenkovic

The very generous donation of the Black Dog Ride will contribute to the continued growth of MHFA Australia, such as further development and diversity of our MHFA courses for varying populations. In this sense, we see the donation as helping us continue to strive for our mission to decrease the stigma associated with mental illness, and increase the mental health literacy (the knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders which aid their recognition, management and prevention) of the Australian community and communities worldwide. More on MHFA Australia's purpose here.

MHFA Australia will also be putting the funds raised towards training a selection of Black Dog Riders as Mental Health First Aid Instructors so that communities in Australia can benefit from enhanced awareness of mental health problems and increased capacity to support people developing a mental health problem or in a mental health crisis.

We are so grateful to have developed this partnership with Black Dog Ride, particularly given our shared missions to raise awareness of mental health illnesses. Similar to Black Dog Ride starting out as one man's ride to raise awareness of depression, which eventually evolved into a national movement, Mental Health First Aid began as two people's idea (in 1997) to develop a first aid course for depression and other mental illnesses which has spread rapidly in Australia and overseas. These people are Betty Kitchener OAM (CEO of MHFA Australia) and her husband Professor Tony Jorm. Betty had experience teaching physical first aid courses for the Australian Red Cross and had also experienced recurrent episodes of severe depression, for which she faced discrimination in the workplace because of mental illness. Tony and Betty decided to develop the Mental Health First Aid course in their spare time on weekends and conduct it voluntarily as a service to the Canberra community.

Since it really got off the ground running in 2000 to present, MHFA Australia has trained over 2,581 MHFA Instructors who teach the 12-14 hour MHFA courses to members of the public across all states and territories of Australia. In our 10th year, we celebrated the significant milestone of having reached 1% of the Australian population, meaning that 170,000 adults had attended a MHFA course in Australia at that time. In 2013, this has now risen to 200,000.

MHFA has also spread internationally, with Betty and other MHFA staff travelling across the world to adapt the MHFA program for use in overseas countries in collaboration with international coordinating bodies. There are now 20 international MHFA programs in operation, ranging from countries like Bermuda, and Nepal to the USA. More info on MHFA International Programs here.

Since 2000, the MHFA Course curriculum has been diversified for varying populations, including Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander individuals, Vietnamese and Chinese people living in Australia, youth, adults, and frontline community workers. Our near future plans are to tailor the course for older people and Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander adolescents.

So once again, from all of us at Mental Health First Aid Australia, including our small team in Melbourne, and MHFA Instructors from across Australia, we would like to thank Black Dog Ride for their generous philanthropic support and contribution to the continued growth of MHFA Australia and our overall mission of decreasing the stigma associated with mental illness.

The Mental Health First Aid Team

Below, the gallery of the 2013 Ride to the Red Centre cheque presentation, with MHFA Australia's Betty Kitchener, Lifeline Australia's Petrina Stamenkovic, Founder of Black Dog Ride Steve Andrews and Victorian Black Dog Riders. Click on the thumbnails to view larger images.