A Queenstown woman whose partner committed suicide hopes to save lives by raising awareness on a nationwide cycling fundraiser.
Kim Percival – seeking financial support for the length-of-New Zealand ride – says five years ago her then-fiance took his life after a long battle with depression.
Andrew Smith, 25, who’d just set up a local screenprinting business, was one of three Queenstown men who did so in 2007 in the space of six weeks.
“I was absolutely totally in love with him, he was amazing,” Percival says.
“I knew that he had depression but obviously it’s still a shock. You don’t imagine anyone’s capable of doing that.”
Percival, 29, says the Ride out of the Blue cycle challenge this October/November will be part of the healing process for her.
“I have a driving force and a heartfelt reason to do it. It was obviously a horrible thing to go through but to be able to do something positive, to raise money and raise awareness, is really important for me.”
Percival admits the 21-day ride will be physically taxing considering her lack of road biking experience.
“But I can physically push myself to the limit knowing that people who suffer from depression push themselves every day to fight it.”
Percival is teaming up with fellow local Rachel Kennedy, 34, and four North Island riders.
All the riders have connections to the cause – in Kennedy’s case, she suffered from post-natal depression after the birth of her third child.
Last year’s inaugural event raised $30,000 for the Mental Health Foundation.
This year’s target is $50,000-plus.
Funds will go to the Mindfulness in Schools programme aimed at targeting the problem of depression early.
“I think this programme will definitely save lives,” Percival says.
“It’s going to help young people know how to deal with those emotions and feelings, and where to go if they are feeling that bad.
“Otherwise, you become an adult and you don’t know how to deal with those feelings. And because it’s such a stigma, you don’t talk to people about it, so you don’t reach out.
“If you have depression, it’s not something you can just hide away from, you have to go and get help.”
In hindsight, Percival says her fiance probably didn’t know how to reach out.
“Which is a really sad thing,” she says.