Mental health charity Psychs on Bikes is revving up for its biggest cross-country motorbike ride yet in the organisation’s tenth anniversary year.
From 1 May, they are heading to cattle stations for the first time in their history to give presentations on mental health, and offer mind and body health checks, for staff and other locals.
Psychs on Bikes (POBs) is a group of psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health nurses and non-clinician honorary members who combine their passion for mental health and motorbikes to discuss mental health and suicide in regional and remote locations.
Psychs on Bikes founder and president, psychiatrist Dr Joe Dunn, is putting out a call to MHPN networks and participants who would like them to speak at a network meeting in:
- Queensland: Roma, Mt Isa
- South Australia: Ceduna
- Western Australia: Kununurra, Fitzroy Crossing, Derby WA, Broome, Port Hedland, Exmouth, Carnarvon, Geraldton, Kalgoorlie
Psychs on Bikes are not only interested in supporting residents but also meeting up with other mental health practitioners along the way.
‘If we're coming through your town, get in touch and we'll give you a presentation … or come and meet us and we'll have a burger in the local pub and a yarn about what's happening for you and what's happening for us. We've done that quite a few times … it's all about overcoming a sense of isolation’, says Joe
The 2021 Psychs on Bikes Big Ride will cover a total of 16,000km in six weeks with 25 mental health practitioners setting off from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane on 1, 2 and 3 May respectively.
‘We're just trying to spread that message about mental health. Our presentations are pitched to a different level when talking to a lot of farm workers compared to talking to a group of colleagues’, says Joe.
Psychs on Bikes (POBs) started in 2011 with Joe, his son, and couple of friends who are mental health professionals, riding across the Nullarbor for the sake of adventure which included a cage dive with Great White Sharks in South Australia. A friend dubbed them Psychs on Bikes and it stuck.
During the past decade, the POBs have gradually grown from a group of friends on long-haul joy rides to psychs with a purpose spreading the mental health message and giving health checks.
‘Over the years, we've done Perth to Sydney three times; and we've done Tasmania twice. We've ridden big loops of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. About 18 months ago, for the last big ride before the pandemic, we went up the middle of the country, so from Adelaide to Darwin’, Joe says.
Since 2011, they have assessed and engaged over 1,000 people; and traversed a total of 40,000km which is the same length as the equator. They now have a major sponsor in Ramsay Health Care and partner with Western Queensland Primary Health Network and Sisters of the North.
POBs naturally grew into an interdisciplinary team of mental health practitioners reflecting best practice in the workplace. ‘When you work in mental health, you always work in a multidisciplinary team or that's the best way to do it. The best way that you can provide a service is with doctors, psychologists, nurses, social workers and occupational therapists’.
The psychs on bikes will stop at 38 remote locations all over Australia talking about mental health and suicide prevention; and visit cattle stations in Queensland and the Northern Territory.
‘The health checks work on the principle that the four silent killers of people in the bush are: high blood pressure, diabetes, alcoholism and depression. The body checks are about blood pressure and blood sugar, and a review of your medical history, which are conducted by nurses and doctors’, Joe says.
Research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare indicates that, in the decade between 2008 and 2018, “the age-standardised suicide rate for males has been approximately 3 times of females”[i]
With this in mind, the POBs have more recently focussed on men’s mental health. They have also received a lot of interest from women, who they are working with alongside men.
‘Half of the blokes pat me on the head and go, yeah okay thanks mate, and the other half, you can't shut up. That's what the health checks are all about: really getting to understand that you can actually sit with someone and talk about how you're feeling and what's happening for you. And it doesn't hurt … sometimes it can make you feel better. You've got someone else to understand what it feels like to be you’, says Joe.
And that’s at the heart of everyone’s mission for mental health.
- Do you work in regional, rural or remote Australia? MHPN can support you to start and run an online or face-to-face network of interdisciplinary practitioners to support your community's needs. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Connect with Psychs on Bikes during the big ride or afterwards for a social ride. Email email@example.com or visit www.psychsonbikes.com.