For the past five years on the anniversary of his son’s suicide, Chris Berkhout set out on a long bike ride from Tamworth to Inverell. His faithful dog, Tezza, has accompanied him for the past four years.
It has become an annual pilgrimage dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues amongst the young.
“This is my way of dealing with the death of my son,” Chris says. “That’s why I do this every year. For him.”
Chris himself has had a difficult past. When he came to Anglicare’s Partners in Recovery program five years ago he was homeless and struggling with health issues. The team supported him with counselling and personal advocacy.
“I have been through a lot, but I bounce back every time. There is just something in me that won’t quit,” says Chris. “Anglicare has been great. They have supported me to the point where I could deal with life by myself.”
For Sue Budden, Support facilitator at Anglicare, it has been heartening to see Chris fight through his struggles.
“Chris is an inspiration,” she explains. “We supported him when he first came to us with housing assistance and counselling. It has been encouraging to see him turn a devastating event into something that has motivated Chris to help others.”
Sue says Chris is no longer a part of Anglicare’s Partners in Recovery program, but still drops in to say hello.
This year Anglicare has donated a tent so Chris and Tezza can have some shelter at night on their long bike ride to Inverell.
Chris isn’t riding to Inverell to raise funds himself, but is encouraging everyone to donate to Headspace.
He starts on his ride next Thursday.
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If you or anyone you know is experiencing difficulties and need someone to talk to, Anglicare offers a range of Counselling and Mental Health services in Tamworth, Armidale, Moree, Inverell, Narrabri and Glen Innes. Give Anglicare a call on (02) 6701 8200.
To donate to Headspace visit headspace.org.au/get-involved