This article discusses suicide. If you or someone you know needs help contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.
Most people would choose to spend their annual leave away on holidays or relaxing at home, but not Sam Thompson.
Sam is riding almost 2000kms from Brighton in Queensland down to Melbourne on a Honda Grom 125 in the name of suicide prevention as a part of his “Save A Mate” campaign.
Riding into Cowra on Tuesday afternoon, Sam said this was the second year he has undertaken the ride and was inspired to raise awareness after losing a friend eight years ago.
“In 2008 I lost a mate of mine to a suicide,” he said.
“I had a 50cc scooter at the time and I was just moping around really and I just thought, I wanna ride this and clear my head and have a bit of a laugh.
“Then I was talking to my mum and she was saying, why don’t I tell people why I’m riding and so I started writing out this little speech on why I’m riding my scooter from Queensland to Victoria and I hit up a mental health place and they helped me organise a few locations.”
His first ride in 2016 saw him take a similar route and he was taken back by the amount of people who had been affected by suicide.
“People got a wind of what I was doing and I was able to stop at a few more places and talk,” he said.
“The thing that became apparent though that it wasn’t just me who was grieving but everyone seemed to be going through the same sort of stuff.
“That’s where the whole Save A Mate thing came from because I realised that I wasn’t a unique experience to losing a mate to suicide, that it was such a big thing.”
Sam, who works in civil construction, has spoken to a number of community groups in Toowoomba, Goondiwindi and Coonabarabran on his journey south however he also simply stops and chats to people in the streets of towns he visits.
“I thought, what I can do without a professional background, is highlight the importance of mateship and just stop people from feeling alone,” he said.
“I’d walk the streets and use the scooter as a talking point and guys would be like why are you riding this in the middle of nowhere, then I would start telling them I’m here because I want people to really think about others as you would you’re mates.”
He said if he can just inspire one person to check in with another, all those kilometres covered have been worth it.
“I think they appreciate that it’s not a big organisation or anything, I’m just a regular bloke trying to say be nice to other regular people,” he said.
“I call it human sustainability.
“I believe we are all born with the one gift and that is the gift of life so why try to put that bloke down to stop him from achieving his full potential or her full potential?”
He said he would love to see the ride bigger and better next year.
“I’m super chuffed with the response,” he said.
“The end goal would be to have set things all the way down.”
Sam would like to thank Rob Dawes from All Service Motors Cowra for supplying a new tyre and chain and Rob and Nick from the Cowra Van Park for their hospitality during his stay.
If you would like to follow Sam’s adventure, you can find him on Facebook or Instagram @save_a_mate