Winstons Unleashed in Local School

Winston, named after Sir Winston Churchill who famously diarised about the "black dog" of depression, has evolved from simply being the mascot of Black Dog Ride to becoming a superb tool for depression awareness.

A community coordinator in a small town of Western Australia has utilised this plush toy dog from Black Dog Ride to help start the conversation about mental wellbeing in local schools.

Nannup is a small town of 600 people in south west Western Australia, and since April 2010 has been the traditional coffee stop for Black Dog Riders as they head through the south west on their annual one day ride for depression awareness. Cate Stevenson, the One Life Nannup Community Coordinator based at the Nannup Community Resource Centre, saw the potential in Winston to help not just adults but young people develop awareness of and prioritise emotional wellbeing.

Black Dog Unleashed by school children in Nannup

Nannup District High School Deputy Principal Brian Feast, Students Heath and April, One Life Coordinator Cate Stevenson, School Principal Felicity Dear

Steve Andrews gave a couple of Winstons to Cate, and Cate subsequently liaised with Felicity Dear, Principal of Nannup District High School (PP-Yr10), who embraced the concept of the young people using Winston to learn about the origins of Black Dog Ride, and how to identify and prioritise emotional wellbeing.

School staff developed activities around Black Dog Ride and Winston (who was taken very well care of) which culminated in a fantastic gallery of "Winston" artwork and projects being displayed at Nannup Hall during the recent National 1 Day Ride.

The 760 Black Dog Riders who came through town on the 24th March were touched by the effort and thought put into each piece of art, and the overall project. One Black Dog Rider was overheard saying "I wish they taught me this sort of stuff when I was at school".

Some quotes from the children's work:

"The riders are fundraising this weekend to help people who are sad."

"Winston is the mascot of the people"

"If you feel sad, pick up the phone, you are not alone"

"If a friend is sad you can help them"

"I like people riding around town to help"

One in every five adolescents are likely to experience depression before the age of 18, and depression is one of the most common identifiable risk factors for suicide (ref). Fostering an atmosphere of mental health awareness amongst young people goes a long way to ensuring young Australians can feel confident and supported in seeking assistance for mental illness, supporting peers who may experience a mental illness and preventing the tragedy of youth suicide. Black Dog Ride is proud to be associated with this great project in Nannup.

Check out the wonderful artwork below (click on each image to enlarge it) and let us know what you think of this fantastic local initiative here.