Cameron Douglas says he is driven to help man deal with mental health issues. (ABC News: Linda Hunt)
Unseasonal icy conditions, rain and strong winds did not deter a small but committed group of New Norfolk residents from taking to the water to raise awareness about suicide in their region.
With no prior experience, they did their best to paddle on stand-up paddleboards (SUP) along a small section of the River Derwent to raise funds for the Derwent Valley Suicide Awareness Group.
The event was the idea of New Norfolk resident Cameron Douglas, who runs an SUP school and is passionate about the positive benefits of exercise for people who have a mental illness.
“I’ve got a real passion for men to get their mental health up,” he said.
“There’s not a lot of outlets and a lot of blokes just suck it up.
“I know that there are just so many men and women out there … just a little bit of exercise could lift their day.”
The group’s treasurer, Matt Hill, said it was formed in 2016 after a spike of suicides in the region.
“Outdoor physical activity does have positive benefits on mental health, so it seemed like the right partnership,” he said.
“The Derwent Valley, like other rural and remote areas, unfortunately, has had instances of high level of suicide.”
He said the area faced social challenges common in regional and rural communities.
“Access to employment, education, transport … and a lot of these issues are intergenerational,” he said.
The paddleboarders gave themselves a seven out of 10 for their effort. (ABC News: Linda Hunt)
Plaque for remembrance garden
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After a brief induction, the paddleboarders tested their balance on the river and only one ended up in the drink.
“Today wasn’t the best day and 30 seconds after we finished the sun’s back out and the wind’s gone down,” Mr Douglas said.
“In the conditions, I’d say they [the paddle boarders] are about a seven out of 10.”
There are plans to make the fundraiser a yearly challenge, said Mr Douglas, with the hope to “raise just a little bit more awareness for suicide prevention and depression”.
“There’s Raw, there’s Beyond Blue, there’s Speak Up Stay Chatty here in Hobart, lots of groups, lots of gyms and places where you can get active,” he said.
“So get out there and get active.”
The fundraising target was a modest $500.
The funds will buy a plaque and seating for a suicide remembrance garden the group planted previously in New Norfolk.