We’ve all seen the mental health poster that says “You never see a motorcycle outside a pyschiatrist’s office”.
However, you would see a big Kawasaki GTR1400 parked outside psychiatrist Joe Dunn’s Sydney office.
Joe is the founder of Psychs on Bikes, a group of mental health professionals who ride around the country spreading mental health awareness and doing free health checks, particularly in remote communities.
“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.
“We now have a couple of hundred people on the email list, about 50 paid-up members and attract about 12 to 20 bikes on each ride which is enough to make a presence in a remote community,” he says.
Psychs on Bikes riders not only spread mental health awareness but also do free men’s health checks.
“Our interest is in rural mental health where the suicide rate is high, mainly among men,” he 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.
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.
In April the group did their annual ride around Victoria and next year it will be a loop from Brisbane to Emerald and down to Roma.
Meanwhile they may also attend the Warragamba Dam Fest in October, the Leeton Harley and Bike Muster also in October and a meeting of the Infidels Motorcycle Club at the Grey Gum Cafe on the Putty Rd in November.
Joe has been riding for 46 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”.
Joe agrees with that old poster about motorcycle therapy.
“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.”
If you’d like to join Psychs on Bikes they can be contacted by email: [email protected]
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