Ski for Life 2019 departs Murray Bridge, raises $28,000 for mental health

A team of waterskiers from Sunnyside has achieved two remarkable goals over the long weekend.

As well as skiing 450 kilometres from Murray Bridge to Renmark, they raised almost $6500 for mental health initiatives.

They were the top-fundraising team in the 2019 Ski for Life, which brought in a total of almost $28,000 for local suicide prevention networks, the Murray Bridge Mental Health and Wellbeing Expo and other causes.

Two hundred skiers and 20 teams entered this year's event, the same number as last year, though half were newcomers.

The skiers' journey began on cool, clear Friday morning at Murray Bridge's Sturt Reserve after a breakfast served by the Rotary Club of Mobilong and a few words from John Dawkins, the Premier's advocate for suicide prevention.

Mr Dawkins said communities in the Murraylands and Riverland had surged ahead of the rest of South Australia in building up support networks for people affected by mental health issues.

There were still opportunities for progress within government agencies, which could do more to promote mental health among their employees and clients, he said.

Suicide prevention also needed to be made a higher priority across Australia.

But events such as Ski for Life did a great job of advancing the cause, he said, and spreading a message about the importance of looking after oneself and others to smaller river communities such as Caloote and Younghusband.

He thanked the likes of Stand By coordinator Tracey Wanganeen and Silent Ripples founder Janet Kuys for their work in the community and contributions to the Premier's Suicide Prevention Council, as well as MPs Adrian Pederick and Tony Pasin for their advocacy.

Mr Pederick said it was devastating that suicide affected so many families and communities.

"The more awareness we can get out there, the more lives we can save," he said.

Event coordinator Sue Watt said while it was tragic that so many participants had known someone who had died by suicide, it was positive that the Ski for Life could turn that devastation into action.

"Everybody's here for their own reasons," she said.

"Everybody has a story.

"But people go home (after the event), tell their mates and we've got more teams.

"I believe next year, 2020, will be massive."

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