3500km in three days – Beach River Desert – Mental Health is everyone’s business

run for a friend ;

Run for a friend ; is an idea that was fostered out of a tragedy when my youngest daughter shared that a close friend of hers took her own life. My daughter and I discussed how we can make Beth’s short-lived life count and decided to launch ‘run for a friend ;’. The semicolon has become symbolic of suicide survivors, meaning individuals put a pause in their life instead of a full stop in their darkest moments. We want to encourage individuals to do the same, take a pause while we back them for a season.

Saving one life matters.

For Beth, may your short life help others that struggle with Mental Health

‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that really matter’ Martin Luther 1483 – 1546

My son and I undertook a 3500km Charity drive over three days to Port Hedland and back to Perth on the 9th of December 2016 to create awareness of Mental Health issues in Construction, Mining, Government, Small Business and Not for profits… We went inland through Newman to Port Hedland and on the coastal road back to Perth.

Mental Illness and the looming threat of suicide is no respecter of person and to believe we are immune from its debilitating effects is both deceptive and entrapping.

Day 1 – A trip in unfamiliar territory & small compromises along the way that become the foothold

We used my car for the trip, a 2003 FPV GT, a dream car I’ve had for years and one that has been treated with absolute care since the day I was fortunate enough to buy it. The GT has never been pushed to its limits but this Charity Drive was going to reveal what was under the hood. The first day we drove inland through country towns, communities for 11 hours till we reached Newman, Sunrise to Sunset. We made our first compromise a few hours into the drive, we couldn’t buy 98 octane petrol, we had to settle for 95 unleaded fuel. It was very evident High Performance Vehicles don’t make this road trip often. The further North you get and into the desert you could only purchase Diesel & God forbid, 91 unleaded petrol.

‘When that opportunity presents itself and we set out to achieve great things, we often underestimate that we are not quite prepared for the compromises that we make along the journey as we hope to finish strong.’

Even the most disciplined of people who have had years of uninterrupted good health, be it Mental or Physical health, it’s these very individuals that get tempted to make small compromises along the way. The further we get up the success ladder ; the compromises become justified and endorsed in the delusional mind that sees this to be part of the journey. The first taste of drugs that we believe helps us to continue our life journey, or the self-medicating of alcohol beyond just relaxing or social interactions now numbs the pain we are beginning to feel about life.

This is also true of Business or any other noble enterprise, the temptation to drift off course from fundamental ethics & values to the unchartered fuels that pollute the integrity of the enterprise are ever-present. As a Chaplain that is always vested in social capital I believe leaders ought to take stock and recognise that their decisions have a ripple effect way beyond the board room. I am the guiltiest of them all.

Day 2 – When we accept that we have compromised in one area of life and we still function quite well we begin to challenge other areas of life.

On the second day 10th December we drove only 7 hours, from Newman to Port Hedland, the GT performed quite well even with the lower grade fuel. The roads are open, wide and built for Road-Trains towing up to four trailers at a time, Road Beasts that could be heard a mile away. These roads were perfect for the GT (Grand Toure) pulling 380HP at the rear wheel. It was the perfect setting, open road, a Road Train to pass and a taco that has no redline which apparently means you can’t blow this motor up. I looked at my son, smiled and tramped it as they used to call it back in the 70s. The GT didn’t disappoint kicking back into third gear opening up 8 stainless steel headers echoing a roaring lion sound in the desert. Yes indeed the motor didn’t blow up and we even impressed a bored Road Train driver or two along the way.

‘That moment we feel unstoppable is the beginnings of delusion we concoct in the mind’.

Human beings have a tendency to push themselves taking presumptuous risks to see what they are capable of; not always comprehending the real danger they pose to themselves and others along the way for the sake of achievement. We fight for the wrong things; we exhaust ourselves with shallow endeavours at the cost of meaning and purpose.

‘With one compromise after another and one achievement after another we tend to devalue life to achievements and materialism.’

We find ourselves repeating behaviours that assist in the appearance of success while we supress deep concerns of hidden addictions, compromises and other destructive behaviour. The temptation to overstep boundaries for expediency become normal practice as the world of delusion broadens, we become the victims of our own success. The fallout is inevitable, the marriage is on a slippery slope, the children become estranged, close friends can’t be trusted and yet we can’t connect the simple dots that got us to this point. We simply purchase a new toy or continue with our substance abuse and blame circumstances, other people for the bad luck in our lives, after all we have reached the heights of the gods, and we are unstoppable.

Day 3 – When we experience our capabilities what’s left?, Endurance, How long can we keep going without stopping?

I woke up Sunday morning at 12:30am after four hours sleep and I knocked on my sons motel room door waking him up and suggested we leave at 1am and drive straight home. My son looked at me half asleep saying “It’s the middle of the night?, ok let’s do it!”

I’ve been advised that we shouldn’t drive at night or at dawn because all the animals come out to feed and that’s when most of the roadkill happens. I’ve also been advised that we shouldn’t drive 18 hours straight in the desert. The advice was noted, did I listen? No.

I did however stick to the speed limit and was very diligent looking out for the kangaroos during the darkest hours of the night with one real near miss, my son and both kangaroo and I were scared as hell as the GT breaks were slammed without skidding. After that near miss I started seeing kangaroos and other beasts in my imagination wanting to jump out at us and be the next roadkill for the desert birds breakfast. The fear didn’t stop us from carrying on our 18 hour drive. We just stopped for fuel, food and toilet all the way, as you can imagine the boredom sets in. After about 12 hours of driving I started getting weary and challenged to keep going or simply ask my son to take the wheel for a couple of hours. Part of me felt disappointed that I didn’t drive all the way like a did years earlier on my own driving back from the Nullarbor. This was different; I wasn’t going to endanger my son’s life. It was great to see him take the wheels of the GT and enjoy the same thrills I experienced when overtaking Road Trains, the headers didn’t disappoint as the sound of the Boss motor continued to raw hour after hour. After feeling refreshed within a couple of hours I took the wheel again to finish our long journey. The GT had been going nonstop from 1am, at about 5pm I was overtaking truck after truck in typical fashion kicking it back to third gear and without notice the gearbox went limp, the GT was stuck on third gear.

What have I done to this beautiful car?

I kept driving for a while and the thought came to my mind, “That’s the price of pushing things to their limits”. If I stopped the car completely it may not go into gear, if I kept driving it as it I may blow the motor with 3 hours of driving to go. After my son did a google search he suggested that the gearbox went into limp mode to protect itself. We stopped the car in the middle of a wildflower patch on the side of the road hoping the gearbox would reset itself. I restarted the car, fingers crossed and a silent prayer and the car went back to normal. It was right there I regained a new respect for this beautiful car that I had for years,

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‘The intervention mechanism in the gearbox was designed for people like me that don’t know when enough is enough’.

We arrived home safely after 18 hours on the road and the GT was washed and detailed a couple of days later with no expense spared to bring it back to showroom condition and filled with the 98 Octane fuel it was designed for. I assure you it will be treated from here on with the respect it deserves. I now know what the GT is capable of, I always knew, I just had to see for myself.

All too often we don’t know how to stop unless an intervention takes place, an intervention can be the very thing that can reset a person’s life again in the right direction. A rightly timed intervention can be the opportunity to get off the merry-go-round of addictions, failed relationships, self-abuse and great loss. As a Chaplain I get to hear stories of great-hearted people from all walks of life finding themselves lost, ashamed and broken. They all have great capabilities, they all have a desire to love and be loved and few survive the third day of life which is the endurance and finishing strong. I’d be one of these people if it wasn’t for my best friend, my wife. She is that one person with character to live by the courage of her conviction and a heart filled with love to break into my life with a desire to stop me from self-destruction. In many ways that’s what my vocation in life is like as a Chaplain, to intervene on behalf of someone else that can’t see the wood from the trees in their own life. Most interventions don’t have a lasting effect because it’s not done in love but rather out of exposure without redemption in mind.

‘This drive was to create an awareness that much of Mental Health issues are preventative and hope is within our reach if we speak up. To be completely honest the greatest problem is that those that need the greatest help often are the least to speak out. Again I am the guiltiest of them all.’

I find it hard to express the things that I saw and felt in the mining towns, the look of desperation in the eyes of the people, the drug deal that took place right before our eyes, those acting out on drugs at 4 am at a Karratha service station. Knowing that billions of dollars are being extracted from the ground in places like Port Hedland, you’d think you were visiting a third world by looking at the conditions of services and the state of the housing. I’m a proud Australian but this 3 day drive made me question much of my pride when so many people are being mentally left behind.

Run for a friend ; is a very simple idea. It is about caring for one person at a time, it’s about having someone’s back when they are at their lowest point. It’s about intervening for someone we claim to love.

‘Moving forward I encourage each one of us to be committed to the idea that charity starts in the home and loving our spouse, children, family and close friends by being present is the greatest gift we can give to anyone’.

I want to pay a special note of appreciation to Gerry Hanssen, Managing Director of Hanssen Construction and some of his leading staff for their Mental Health initiatives and support hoping to make a difference in one person’s life. They paid for 200 High Vis vests to be printed with Run for a friend ; and we took the attached photo on Langley Park, Perth opposite some of the Hanssen Buildings built on Terrace road. Gerry Hanssen has also given me great freedom within his company over the last three years as a Chaplain to be available and intervene wherever the need arose without any restrictions. I’m also grateful for the many private sponsors that support Run for a friend ; and they know who they are. The second picture attached was the highlight of my journey, to be part of nature that was here before me and will be here well after I leave this beautiful world’

Gerry Hanssen has a great saying “When you know what you don’t want, the rest is easy” unfortunately too many of us go to great lengths to find out what we really don’t want, but that’s life.

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