Men suffering from mental health issues are invited to meet two riders for dinner talks about suicide prevention was they ride from Phillip Island to Darwin and back this month.
Riders John “JC” Curren (pictured above), who has been living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for more than 30 years and now late-stage cancer, and Neil “Burg” Relph, who has mental health issues, are co-founders of motorcycle charity group Shepherds Australia.
Their 18-day Men’s Health Tour leaves the Phillip Island National Vietnam Veterans museum on August 23. John will be on his Suzuki Bandit and Neil will ride a 650 Suzuki Burgman scooter.
You can track their progress on their special website or Facebook page so that other riders also suffering can meet with them for dinner and discussions about their health issues at each stop along the way.
They will stop at RSLs, Men’s Sheds and other community gatherings.
“We are hoping to have a men’s dinner at every stop to talk, listen and share. Learn to communicate,” JC says.
“I believe if I had shared how I was really feeling pain etc, treatment may have started earlier with a different outcome.
“So I am now passionate in getting men talking.
“I have been working on this for 12 weeks trying to spread the word on why my cancer got to stage-four terminal.
“Remember to share your stress and talk to family doctors and friends. I never shared even in January this year that led to emergency radiation treatment.”
During his time with the Defence Services Victoria JC became a qualified counsellor and started work within the service for people who, due to the nature of their employment, were trained not to talk about the matters they dealt with.
Since 1986 JC has continued helping Returned Servicemen, Frontline Emergency Response Personnel and people from all walks of life deal with PTSD and its associated issues of depression and alcoholism.
In 2010, John was diagnosed with prostate cancer and on finding out, didn’t communicate how he was feeling with his doctor, friends and family for four years, says fellow Shepherds Australia co-founder Dean “Bear” Marks.
“He did not want to burden others with what he was going through,” says Bear who is not attending because of a physical illness and an appointment to collect an award for his charity work.
“This is very common, especially with regard to men. We are taught to be hard, that we can handle it, we must be in control and we don’t want sympathy.”
In 2014, due to extreme back pain, John was sent for a PET scan that found the cancer had metastasised into his back and along the spine.
“Finding out the bad news, JC sunk further into his own counsel. Again a decision he has on reflection, regretted.”
JC, Burg and Bear formed Shepherds Australia was established to change the way people, in particular men, dealt with these issues.
“JC decided, before time runs out, he needed to get out and reach men. Speak to them and not only share his story, but get them to share their stories,” Bear says.
“Get them communicating with their families and communities, the people close to them and share the load.”
The riders are supported by the Nation Vietnam veterans museum, Phillip Island and San Remo Rotary, who assisted in fund raising for the trip, but they are still in need of more sponsorship.
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“Unfortunately men’s health and suicide prevention are not topical and nor do we have celebrity or sports personality endorsement,” Bear says.
“We are doing this because it needs to be done. Good men are silently suffering until they make the desperate choice that their family and friends would be better off without them.”
Leading cause of death
Lifeline reports that suicide remains the leading cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15 and 44 and that deaths by suicide in Australia occur among males at a rate three times greater than that for females.
Whereas females are more likely to present to hospital as a result of self-harm, males are more likely to succeed in taking their own lives.
Researchers have attributed the difference between attempted and completed suicides among the sexes to males using more lethal means to end their lives.
For every death by suicide, it is estimated that as many as 30 people attempt to end their lives, which is about 65,300 suicide attempts each year in Australia.
Middle aged and older men continue to suicide at rates 4-6 times greater than females on average and at rates 2-3 times greater than teenage males.
“At the core of Shepherds Australia and intrinsic to our belief is Community Before Self,” Bear says.
“For every person we reach, it may be a life we save. A life that is valued by family, friends and community.”
If you feel the need to talk about mental health and suicide issues, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.