PUKA UP - Wayne Schwass
Australian Rules Football.... or any kind of football in that instance, I associate with bone crunching collisions, hardened men launching themself at contest after contest. What doesn't come to mind? Some of Australia's toughest athletes living in a world of mental instability and engulfed in an environment that keeps their mental state under wraps.
This is what Wayne Schwass faced while battling mental health issues from 1993 until 1999 where he didn’t seek help and come to terms with the fact that he couldn’t overcome the issue on his own. Since 2006, the North Melbourne premiership player, All Australian and North Melbourne Hall of Fame member has been forthcoming about his prolonged mental illness and this lead to Schwass creating the social enterprise Puka Up - a project with a mission statement to eliminating suicide.
Through Puka Up, on Friday Schwass and his team, embark on a ride from Sydney to Melbourne. The goal to build brand awareness, spark conversation and raise funds to help men speak up, a simple but significant step to conquering mental health. This for me emphasises a unique aspect of cycling - it can create a collaboration from people of all types, sizes, backgrounds, to enjoy this strange challenge of turning your legs over and over, sit around in lycra drinking coffees (and talking) and importantly in this instance create awareness for an impactful project.
Scott Cummings, a former strongman AFL player, stands in utter contrast to the archetype of “a cyclist”, but he can still swing a leg over a bike and encompass all the sport has to offer. Cummings openly discussed on the Puka Up daily unpack, that he was one of those guys, a manly bold footballer that promoted a culture where men dismissed their mental state and to "harden up". For Cummings to openly acknowledge this signifies as to how far awareness of mental health conditions has developed but the statistics exemplify how far there is to go.
The Stanley Street Social wish the Puka Up team all the best for their journey down to Melbourne. One of the Puka Up members will be taking over our story on Sunday and keep up to date with their ride every day through the Puka Up social media pages.