R.A.T.S riders spread awareness about suicideSave
By Sieska Verdonk
They say they ride for the 579, and they're are currently making a tour of the Taranaki region to promote awareness about teenage suicide.
"579 faces are being represented today.. That's how many New Zealanders, am I'm saying people from our communities, farmers, doctors, teachers, mothers, fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers, daughters, sons, granddaughters, grandsons. 579 New Zealanders committed suicide last year," says Hone Mihaka, president of R.A.T.S.
They call themselves the Riders Against Teen Suicide - or R.A.T.S
And they've all be touched in some way by the suicide rate - which is one of the highest the developed world.
"It's an epidemic within our communities, within our young ones. We don't have the solutions. But we want to bring awareness," says Tama Eminukutepuka, regional R.A.T.S leader.
The R.A.T.S started in 2012 in Northland and has quickly grown to include most of the North Island in rally events.
"We want to address this and raise awareness around suicide, a silent killer, that roams through our communities unabated. We don't talk about it. It roams through our communities and it chooses who it wants at will, it takes who it wants at will, it doesn't matter what race, what creed what colour you come from," says Mr Mihaka.
The riders are planning fundraising events with the proceeds going to organisations like Tutaki, a community trust which helps anyone with mental health concerns.
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