Men and women clad in leather, riding choppers probably doesn’t scream suicide prevention. But Saturday morning, the two will go hand in hand.
Starting at 11 A.M. at Victors Hogs n Horns in Caldwell, the Red Knights Idaho Chapter One motorcycle group will ride to benefit the Speedy Foundation and Idaho’s Suicide Hotline.
Organizer and Red Knight member Maressa McAllister says suicide and mental illness is everywhere.
“It affects every population,” McAllister says. “It doesn’t matter, you know, black, white, purple, green. And there just needs to be more awareness out there and we thought this would be a group that really isn’t hit a lot with that message. So we thought we would get it out there.”
The Speedy Foundation began in 2011 after Boise-native and Olympic medalist Jeret “Speedy” Peterson took his life last year. His mother, Linda Peterson, says she hopes Saturday’s event will break down stigmas on suicide and mental illness.
She's worked hard to support a local suicide hotline.
“We need one desperately,” Peterson says. “There are so many people out there that would benefit from it and realistically, bottom line, it will save lives.”
Idaho is the only state that doesn’t have a suicide hotline. Right now, calls are directed to Oregon. But Judy Gabert, Suicide Prevention Action Network’s Resource Specialist, says that poses problems. The national hotline doesn’t know all the local resources available to Idahoans. This can lead to misinformation on where a person should go to get help.
She says having a local hotline will show that the state cares about the mental health of its residents.
“It will connect every citizen with somebody that can offer help,” Gabert says.
The Center for Disease Control put Idaho fourth in the country for suicides per capita in 2009. The legislature will help the new hotline get off the ground financially.
“It is the first dollar ever the state has put towards suicide prevention,” Gabert said.
Idaho used to have a suicide prevention hotline, but it ran out of money in 2006.
Peterson says she doesn’t know if things would have been different for her son, had there been a hotline in place last year.
“That’s something that none of us will ever know,” Peterson says. “But I’d rather see people not be in my position. It would be wonderful to know that you’re not in that position because your loved one called the hotline and had somebody to talk to.”
Idaho’s own hotline should be up later this year.
A barbecue and silent auction will follow the ride on Saturday.