John Coulls appointed Black Dog Ride state coordinator

RIDE FOR A CAUSE: Kimba's John Coulls has been riding for about eight years, spreading the word about suicide prevention.
RIDE FOR A CAUSE: Kimba's John Coulls has been riding for about eight years, spreading the word about suicide prevention.

Kimba local John Coulls has taken on a leadership role with an initiative combining mental health awareness with motorcycle rides.

Black Dog Ride Australia is a team of volunteer motocyclists organising rides across the country to raise awareness around mental health and suicide prevention along the way.

Founded in 2009 by Steve Andrews, who rode solo around the country following the death of a loved one, the organisation has now conducted over 100 official rides and raised over $1,800,000 for mental health services.

While awareness is the main objective of the organisation, the funds raised are directed towards a variety of community-based mental health initiatives across the country.

Mr Coulls has been involved with the organisation for about eight years, participating frequently in one-day events and larger events including the 2014 national long distance ride which saw a group travel across the country.

The ride lasted 32 days and spanned 14,500 kilometres, with the 65 participants stopping around regional and metropolitan Australia to speak about the cause.

Mr Coulls' involvement with the organisation has also seen him learn more about suicide prevention.

Over the years he has participated in mental health first aid training and spoken around the country including at an Aboriginal Congress in Alice Springs, as well as being involved in events closer to home including multiple one-day rides at Whyalla.

In 2020 Mr Coulls is taking on the role of South Australian state coordinator for Black Dog Ride.

He said his passion for mental health awareness comes from being personally impacted by the high suicide rate in Australia.

"I've had friends die from suicide," he said.

"I just wanted to do something to help people."

Mr Coulls said suicide was a significant issue in Australia, with the male suicide rate of particular concern.

A number of one-day rides are planned across the state for March, with Whyalla among the host towns.

Mr Coulls said the organisation was also looking at a ride at Port Lincoln.

"I hope to grow the Black Dog Ride throughout the state," he said.

"The more we can get the more people we can make aware of the problems we have with suicide."

Mr Coulls said he encouraged anyone who saw a motorcyclist with a black dog on their motorcycle to come up and have a chat.

He said there were "no barriers" to getting involved with the organisation, with men and women from all walks of life involved.

"It's all people," he said.