Psychs on bikes to hit the Tamar Valley on Tasmanian run

FOUNDER: The group was founded by Sydney psychiatrist Joe Dunn. Picture: Supplied
FOUNDER: The group was founded by Sydney psychiatrist Joe Dunn. Picture: Supplied

A group of 12 health professionals is riding from Hobart to the Tamar Valley to raise awareness about mental health in regional areas. 

Psychs on Bikes is a nationwide initiative that aims to provide free mental health services and advice to remote areas of the country. 

Every year, the group sets off on a major ride, with Tasmania chosen as the destination in 2018.

The group will stop at Rosevears on Thursday and speak to community mental health service providers to advise them on best practice care.

Riders for the 2018 Tasmanian trek include psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and a social worker.

“We can go into the communities and see what help they need by talking to as many people as possible,” group founder Dr Joe Dunn said.

STOPOVER: The group at a stopover during the Tasmanian ride. Picture: Supplied

STOPOVER: The group at a stopover during the Tasmanian ride. Picture: Supplied

“We offer free men’s health checks in some stops and we do as much awareness raising as we can.”

Dr Dunn is a Sydney-based psychiatrist who started the group in 2011 after what he calls his “thoroughly enjoyable midlife crisis”.

After riding across the country on his motorbike, he called on other psychiatrists to join him and help spread mental health-based education.

He said it was vital for improved mental health services and awareness in regional and remote areas. 

“The suicide rate in rural areas is one-and-a-half times the amount in metropolitan areas,” he said.

“Life in rural and regional Australia can be very challenging in ways that metro areas don’t understand.”

Dr Dunn mentioned two key factors in the higher rates of suicide in regional areas. 

“When you're in the bush it tends to run in boom or bust,” he said. 

“Most smaller Australian towns rely heavily on agriculture, so they go from drought to flooding rains.

“Agriculture has also changed, with a lot of the work done in isolation and there’s no sense of camaraderie and male unity in these workplaces anymore.

“They’re all significant stressors, particularly on men.”

For its Tasmanian ride, the group has teamed up with Rural Alive and Well Tasmania and beyondblue.

For mental health support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.