‘It’s out of my comfort zone’: Campaigner overcomes her fears

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A mental health campaigner and comedian who is encouraging bikers to talk more openly about the impact of suicide is celebrating passing her test – and has overcome trauma from an earlier road accident in the process.

Sheila McMahon from Tamworth took the plunge to pass her test after delivering a talk to Lichfield Advanced Motorcycle Group (LAMG) in October 2021 – pushing herself to pass, if they pushed themselves to watch her YouTube video: How can I help someone who has suicidal thoughts?

“I had been a pillion and that was fine,” the CEO of Mind Management For You said. “But learning to ride a motorbike never entered my thoughts,” she continued. “I did the talk for the club and… I thought ‘how am I going to motivate these guys to watch this video?’

Sheila's suicide awareness hi-vis

“I thought ‘what would be the biggest thing I could do to push myself out of my comfort zone?’ There was an element of ‘let’s see how far I can go’. The surprise was that I started to enjoy it.”

This enjoyment came after overcoming the trauma of a car accident experienced earlier in her life where the driver pushed the accelerator rather than the brake – with the vehicle hitting a telegraph poll and turning over.

Having overcome the challenge, Sheila now has a Yamaha MT-07 in her garage.

You can watch the awareness video here:

Motorcycling charity gears up to train 1000 new mental health first aiders in 2022

First published 19 January 2022 by Dan Sutherland

Volunteers gather for a face-to-face meeting

Recently established two-wheeled charity Mental Health Motorbike (MHM) are planning to train up 1000 mental health first aiders from across the biking community in 2022.

“It’s been an absolute rollercoaster since we started,” Founding Director, Paul Oxborough told MCN. “With Covid, you don’t have to go very far before you’re dealing with a mental health issue.”

Set-up in March 2020, MHM offers face-to-face and online mental health support and officially became a recognised charity at the end of 2021. They now want to establish a strong network of first aiders to provide free support for other riders and get people the professional help they require.

Mental Health Motorbike charity volunteers

“You’re not becoming a therapist, or a councillor, you’re becoming somebody that’s tuned into poor mental health and the issues around mental health,” Oxborough continued.

“What it also does is give you a very good toolkit for dealing with people that present themselves in crisis.”

The organisation has already put 116 bikers through the training, with a bursary fund available to help finance the course where needed. Alongside this, they also want to break down the stigma attached to mental health and show people it’s okay to talk.

“I’m 52-years-old and my generation was told ‘you don’t show your feelings, you don’t show your weaknesses – you’re a man,’” Paul added. “Words like ‘man up’ or ‘get a grip’ are not particularly helpful when dealing with people’s problems.”

But it’s not just men of Paul’s generation getting involved. He continued: “We’ve created a very diverse biker group. It’s young people, older riders, males, females, people from the LGBTQ+ community and we’ve brought all these people together in one space.”

Royal Enfield launch raffle to raise cash for CALM mental health charity

First published on 22 December 2021 by Jordan Gibbons

Royal Enfield raise money for mental health charity

Royal Enfield are giving away a customised Continental GT 650 with a one-of-a-kind paint job as the top prize in a raffle organised to support CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably).

Called ‘OPEN IT UP – The Big Raffle!’, the event aims  to raise funds and awareness to support CALM in the positive promotion of mental health and suicide prevention.

In total, 10 prizes  are up for grabs, with others including two tickets to join the The Highland Scramble in Scotland, a Belstaff gift package, two tickets to a day of Slide School flat-tracking, and much more.

Tickets cost £5 each and are available online with the competition closing on March 31 next year. Good luck!

Keep CALM and raise cash: £25,000 needed for mental health

First published on 22 October 2021 by Jordan Gibbons

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650

For 2021, Royal Enfield have been working with the Campaign Against Living Miserably to ‘open it up’ and increase the amount of conversations we all have around positive mental health. CALM was set up to help people struggling with mental health, particularly men for whom finding support can be a struggle.

The stats alone are enough to shock with 125 people a week taking their own lives and of that 75% are men. It’s become so bad that suicide is the biggest killer of males under 45. CALM have set up a helpline and last year they spoke to someone who was struggling every 66 seconds.

More importantly still, they directly prevented 564 suicides. But CALM don’t want to be the last place that people turn, they want to improve the situation for everyone through frontline services, national campaigns and building support communities.

That’s why they’ve teamed up with Royal Enfield, to harness the positive power of the motorcycle community.

As well as the free helpine and website, CALM provide bereavement support to families through their Support After Suicide partnership. But they can’t do it alone. With Royal Enfield they’ve set a target of raising £25,000 this year to continue their life saving work.

Thousands have already been raised and we’ve even helped at MCN, donating all the proceeds from the helmet park at the MCN Festival to stick another £1500 in the pot. You can read more and make a donation at the Royal Enfield x CALM Just Giving page

Keep CALM and ride on: Royal Enfield go full throttle into mental health drive

First published on 17 March 2021 by Jordan Gibbons

Royal Enfield Himalayan and rider

Royal Enfield UK have teamed up with suicide prevention charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm) to get more motorcyclists the help they need to protect their mental health.

Suicide is one of the single biggest killers of men under 45 in the UK and the cause of 18 deaths every day. Calm were founded in 2006 to help confront this and to date have helped millions of men change their lives for the better.

Now Royal Enfield have set up a year-long partnership with Calm, creating the ‘Open It Up’ campaign which will seek to raise awareness and funds for the cause. Together they are going to create a support network for people at crisis point, as well as those who just need someone to talk to about problems.

“We are always talking about the mental freedom that biking affords – it’s no secret that a major part of the appeal is going for a ride on an amazing machine in beautiful surroundings – a wonderful way to clear your head,” says George Cheeseman, at Royal Enfield.

“We are so pleased to be able to provide support for Calm. The issues around mental health have never been more critical both to discuss and to action.”

Speaking about the partnership, Simon Gunning, CEO, Calm says: “Going out on your motorbike, getting together and connecting with motorcycle enthusiasts is great – people are relaxed and in a familiar environment, so they’re more likely to open-up.

“By opening the door to thousands more people, and in particular those who are in the most at-risk age groups, we can continue to play an important role in challenging the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide, taking another step forward in creating long-term cultural change.”

Mental health and motorbikes: UK baton relay planned to get bikers talking about mental wellbeing

First published on 9 October, 2020 by Dan Sutherland

Paul's Mental Health Motorbike

A biker has set up a non-profit organisation to help people struggling with mental health, especially issues heightened by social isolation. Paul Oxborough’s mission is to help people in need, particularly those who struggle to find people to talk to about their problems, and as part of this he’s organising a biking baton relay for 2021.

“Sometimes society conditions you to not ask for help and you really struggle talking to someone,” says Paul. “We’re trying to break the stigma around talking and once we’ve done that, people will get the support they need.” 

Paul helped establish Mental Health Motorbike earlier this year, having had experience as a youth and community worker. Paul’s been a biker for 34 years, so he knows the strength of the biking community and now he is hoping to harness that to set up a network of motorcycle-friendly mental health first-aiders.

Paul Oxborough

By attending organised biking events, as well as providing an online peer support network to riders on Facebook, the MHM team have already recruited more than 20 volunteer ambassadors and are actively looking for people to come onboard with the effort.

The aim of the relay is to recruit at least 250 new mental health first-aiders in biking, with the ride starting in Salford and seeing the baton passed through every city in the UK by riders.

Lasting around 3000 miles and Covid-19 permitting, the event is set to be launched just before Christmas and is being organised by Mental Health Motorbike – a group set-up with the aim of getting riders to talk more openly about their struggles.

Paul added: “When you look at the demographic of bikers, you can’t sort of say: ‘a biker is…’ You’ve got men, women, your learner bikers, your round the world bikers, rufty-tufty bearded bikers, but everybody at some stage in their life will face difficulties.”

Harley-Davidson UK shares bikers’ insights how biking can help with mental health

A short series of six videos produced by Harley-Davidson UK highlight how riding a motorbike can help with mental wellbeing. Watch them all here: 

“Riding changed my life” – Army veteran Andy Brown says bikes helped him beat PTSD

First published on 17 July, 2020 by Jordan Gibbons

Andy Brown on his BMW R1200ST

“I had a very bad 2019,” says Andy Brown, a 48-year-old ex-soldier from Devon. The post-traumatic stress disorder he’d been dulling for 20 years with a succession of high-adrenalin jobs (bomb disposal, anti-terrorism, rapid response), suddenly hit home.

“I was very poorly for a year. I lost my job, my career and nearly lost my life because of mental illness. I lost all faith in myself – if you can’t trust your brain, how can you go on? But in January I wanted to get back on a bike so I used some of my pension money to pay for a [nine-day] Rapid Training course. I’d always wanted to do something like that.

“Doing the course was life-changing – it not only improved my riding, but gave me confidence in myself too. It made me realise that my brain does work and can process information at high speed, and that I can learn and develop quickly.”

Plus, the mere fact that Adam was out on a bike (he has a BMW R1200ST) helped. “The bike demands your attention – you have to focus on the here and now. It’s a kind of mindfulness, especially if you’re trying to ride well, because you have to concentrate.

Andy Brown on a tour of duty in Iraq

“And there’s the exhilaration, and you feel free because you’re out on your own with nothing to worry about except your bike. The bike keeps me connected to the outside world in a way a car doesn’t.

“I did two days of the course just before lockdown, then had to wait until June to complete it. I was worried I’d forget what I’d learned. Lockdown has been tough for people with mental health issues because we haven’t been able to access our usual support but it was such a great feeling getting back on the bike afterwards – I hadn’t forgotten as much as I thought I would during the enforced lay-off!

“My plan now is to go out and practice my riding skills regularly, then I’ve got a trackday lined up in September and me and some mates want to go touring round Ireland, and then maybe round the First World War battlefields. I would say that getting back on a bike has changed my life… for the better.”