Long road to stop stigma
CYCLING 300km in three days may seem like a challenge but it is nothing compared to the challenges faced by those battling with depression and anxiety.
David Graden (36) admits he knows first-hand about “suffering in silence”, realising in his early 20s he needed to seek help.
“Back then it definitely wasn’t the manly thing to show your vulnerable side and admit to your family and friends you’re struggling mentally and emotionally, and certainly where I lived it would have been seen as a weakness,” he said.
“There has always been a stigma attached to men and mental heath.
“I finally built up the courage to ask for some help, which was shortlived.”
The Connolly resident said 11 to 12 years later he found himself “in the same mind frame”.
“I had social anxiety, isolated myself from people and I couldn’t focus on any one thing,” he said.
“One year later, I found myself in the doctor’s in tears, which was the turning point in my life.”
Now, a few years later, Mr Graden is an ambassador for men’s mental health charity A Change For Change, inspired not only by his own struggles but also those of his brother-in-law Paul Strange, who died by suicide two years ago at the age of 30.
Mr Strange’s mother Irene said he had suffered with depression for about six years.
“He always pushed himself to achieve high results and put pressure on himself whilst studying; he just passed his sports science degree before he passed,” the Ocean Reef resident said.
“About three years before, he was in hospital and after coming home he seemed to gradually get better.
“But depression does not really go away; it is always there under the surface.”
Watching his partner Nikki and her family lose a loved one to suicide prompted Mr Graden to create Pedal 2 Perth 4 Paul to “help raise mental health awareness, stop the suffering in silence and suicide prevention in men in Australia”.
He will ride from Margaret River to Mullaloo Beach, where Mr Strange’s ashes were scattered, from December 14 to 16, stopping overnight in Bunbury and Mandurah.
“Back then I needed someone or anything to show me it was OK to be going through what I was going through and that I was not alone, there was nothing and no one,” he said.
David Graden, Mullaloo Surf Life Saving Club director Craig Bull and Irene Strange. Below: Paul Strange passed away two years ago.