Psychologists and psychiatrists are mounting up on their motorcycles for their annual Big Ride to bring mental health issues and therapies to people in remote communities.
There’s the old saying that you will never find a motorcycle outside a psychologist’s office, that is unless it belongs to a psychologist who belongs to the group, Psychs on Bikes!
The group was started by Kawasaki GTR1400 rider and Sydney psychiatrist Joe Dunn.
Psychs on Bikes is a group of mental health professionals who ride around the country spreading mental health awareness and doing free health checks, particularly in remote communities.
Check out their Big Ride in this video.
The Big Ride
They have a number of rides each year, but their big event is the Big Ride which this year takes in a 2500km loop through Western Queensland in April.
The Big Ride starts and ends at the Ramsay Healthcare psychiatric hospital New Farm Clinic in Brisbane which is their biggest sponsor. The Big Ride takes in Goondiwindi, St George, Roma, Carnarvon Gorge (for a day of R and R), Emerald, Biloela and the Caloundra from April 15 to 23.
“We’ll be talking to the media, meeting with local health professionals and interacting with the local community,” he says.
“We’ve started a technique called Psychs in the Pub where we talk about mental health issues and conduct Free Men’s Health Checks.
“This year we have about a dozen psychs in attendance.”
Joe says any health professionals who’d like to join can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Psychs on Bikes beginning
We spoke to Joe last year about how he established Psychs on Bikes.
“It all happened by accident about seven years ago when I wanted to rid the Nullarbor in a bit of a midlife crisis,” Joe says.
He was accompanied by his son and a couple of mates who were a psychiatrist and a psychologist.
After the ride, they decided to return to Sydney and invite other mental health care professionals to join them. That started an annual pilgrimage around the country as well as shorter rides to various motorcycle festivals and events.
“Our interest is in rural mental health where the suicide rate is high, mainly among men,” Joe says.
“They come attracted by the bikes and the good news is they are starting to open up more about their emotions.”
Although it is a free men’s health check, everyone is welcome.
“It’s actually a fairly cursory physical health check, but then we ask them to fill out a mental health questionnaire and that’s an invitation for blokes to start talking.”
Although they target males, Joe said almost half of their riders are female mental health professionals.
Joe has been riding for 47 years having obtained his licence at 15 in New Zealand. He says he rode a Honda 90 to school and couldn’t afford a car, so he rode motorcycles to uni.
He says the GTR is his “14th or 15th motorbike”.
“There is a great camaraderie in riding,” he says. “It’s a very levelling experience. You can ride with people from every socio-economic group and we are all united by our interest in bikes and avoiding speed cameras.
“If you are a real rider, you understand the pleasures and risks of riding, but you can’t go a couple of weeks without getting the wind in your face.
“It’s not an addiction, but it’s pretty near.”
Psychs on Bikes has raised money for the Australasian Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health, but they don’t always have put their hands out for funds as they are generously supported by Ramsay Health Care which is the biggest owner of private hospitals in Australia.
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