MORNINGTON Peninsula concreter Nik Shepheard knows firsthand the difficulties men face in recognising and dealing with depression, and has come up with a novel way of raising funds to increase awareness and support.
On the Australia Day long weekend, the Bittern man will start on a journey to circumnavigate Australia by kiteboard, beginning at Mount Martha and heading west with the trade winds.
Shepheard has been a kiteboarder for around 23 years and is confident of his skills, but also realises the trip comes with a large set of challenges.
But he says the challenges pale when compared to the challenges many men face when trying to navigate the emotions and stresses of life.
“Through my own experience of someone who lived for years with undiagnosed depression, I know that support helps, and I know we have to keep talking about this to normalise it and get the message out that there is help,” he said.
“I remember thinking that the way I felt must be normal, but I also remember wanting to end my life… but friends encouraged me to seek support and that was the beginning of my healing,” he said.
Shepheard also started an organisation Kiteboard for Life Australia (KFLA) in 2014, with an aim of increasing awareness of depression and suicide.
Shepheard, who has nominated Beyond Blue to receive donations from a GoFundMe page he has started, said kiteboarding was his choice of travel for the trip because it had helped him over the years to refocus and take his mind of the stresses of the day.
“When I am out on the water, I feel alive and it has always helped me clear my mind”.
Shepheard has a volunteer support team of a skipper and deckhand who will follow him on a boat, which will become his place or rest every night, and is also hoping to pick up other help on the journey. There will also be regular stops to engage with communities, and as a Rotarian he is hoping to be able use his experiences to do some public speaking.
While he knows it could take up to 12 months to complete his trip, Shepheard said exact schedules are impossible because of changing weather and other variables.
“I hope to be able to kiteboard for eight to 10 hours a day, with my objective every day to get to a safe point to stop for the night,” he said.
To learn more about Shepheard’s journey or to donate go to his Kiteboarding for Mental Health, Circumnavigate Oz page, his Instagram page or his website Kiteboard for Life Australia.