Lonely journey to raise awareness

By Daniel Hughes

Tocumwal played host last week to a unique guest who is paddling the full 2400kms of the Murray River to help people voice their struggle with depression.

Marc Nieuwenhuys, 43, was clinically diagnosed with depression seven years ago and has embarked on his quest to help people open up publicly or personally about their own fight with depression.

His three month river journey originated when he was kayaking with friends and they noticed a blue marker indicating how far there was to the river’s mouth.

He quickly stated, ‘‘I’m going to do that’’.

‘‘It just sort of happened; as soon as I had the idea, I knew I was going to do it. I couldn’t have never predicted what happened next,’’ Mr Nieuwenhuys said.

‘‘It’s not so much about raising awareness, there’s plenty of awareness out there. The biggest thing I can see is that taking the next step is talking about it and being open with yourself and others.’’

Mr Nieuwenhuys is undertaking his journey completely unassisted, without a support crew and is camping along the banks of the Murray River each night though he said couldn’t have done it without the support of his social media followers and wife, Natalie.

‘‘I’m completely on the river now, staying on the beach as I go. I’ve had overwhelming support of followers and people offering to help me,’’ he said.

‘‘Since starting out on my journey there’s been this profound kindness and generosity not only extended to myself, but to those around me.’’

Last Thursday, September 12, he paddled into Tocumwal to stop for lunch and a break and was met with gifts and a lot of support.

‘‘I pulled into Tocumwal expecting to just have a short stop and was met with fruit cake, chocolate and a number of people who wanted to tell me how much I’ve helped them get through their own demons,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s been like this everywhere; I’ve had a tremendous impact on people’s lives without even originally setting out to do so.’’

Mr Nieuwenhuys has utilised media and supporting technology where possible to project the popularity and reach of his journey.

To record his journey and monitor his physical, emotional and mental health, Mr Nieuwenhuys has also started writing a book.

He estimates it will take 2 million paddle strokes and three months to reach his final destination at Goolwa SA.

‘‘We’ve spent three months in the lead up with our dehydrating machines working around the clock,’’ he said.

‘‘I carry three weeks worth of food with me, as stored hot meals and a snack bags for each day. When I get low my wife posts a food drop to fill me up with meals again.’’

Follow the journey by visiting or visit the Talking About A Lonely Journey Facebook page.