Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service complex care co-ordinator, Tony Connell.
Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service complex care co-ordinator, Tony Connell.

Tragic trend spotted during motorbike tour

TONY Connell has noticed a grim trend in communities around Australia.

During his Psychs on Bikes trips, the complex care co-ordinator for Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service observed what he called “pockets of suicide” in country communities.

The reasons for this were complex but he said one person taking their own life could be seen as “permission” for others.

“We tend to rely on other people for permission to do things,” Mr Connell said.

“If one person has a suicide, it means they reached into their ability to cope with what’s going on for them and they see suicide as the only way out of their circumstances.

“Their friend, neighbour or relative might see that and it might give them permission to do it.”

Mr Connell spoke to the Chronicle to raise awareness of Men’s Health Week, which this year runs from June 15-21.

He said suicide and secret mental health battles were all too common in regional towns.

Often, he said, these struggles were brought about by the struggles of life on the land.

“In some of the areas we’ve gone through, drought’s been a big thing,” Mr Connell said.

“In other areas it’s been fires.”

Tony Connell and his colleagues set up a men's health check site as part of their Psychs on Bikes tour.
Tony Connell and his colleagues set up a men's health check site as part of their Psychs on Bikes tour.

Psychs on Bikes serves as a tool to get men talking about their demons, he said.

The initiative consists of “a group of mental health professionals who like riding motorbikes” travelling throughout the country and setting up pop-up clinics.

He said the motorbikes acted as a drawcard for men who would not usually be prepared to chat to strangers about their mental wellbeing.

“We try to organise, in smaller centres, opportunities to meet with local men,” Mr Connell said.

“That could be doing a men’s health check and having a chat to men about how they’re doing.”

He said the idea was to “break the cycle” of men keeping their struggles hidden, which could lead to tragic outcomes.

“If we can get in there and break that cycle and show them it’s not an outcome that’s suitable, we can make sure there are other options available,” he said.

If this story has raised issues for you, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.



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