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Every bloke has a story

In most circles, subjects like depression and suicide are taboo. Discussing them can feel haunting, foreign and inappropriate. But if we don’t confront their existence, the consequences can be far more devastating.

In Australia, eight people take their life every day. Six of them are men.

In the face of this staggering statistic, a reality emerges. Mental health issues are widespread, and many of us will in some way be affected by them. For Matt Tripet, a naturally upbeat and active outdoorsman, this reality took centre stage when he lost a loved one to suicide. Like so many others around the world, he was left to deal with unimaginably painful feelings, confusion and some depression of his own. A general hesitation to talk about his struggles complicated things even more.

Finding channels to work out these feelings is essential to recovery, Matt knew, but in a society where depression is more often viewed more as a fleeting “feeling” than a dangerous and too often fatal disease, asking for help can be terrifying. The stereotype of Australian men as stoic, strong and self-reliant made doing so even harder. Recognising that he needed a release from the destructive emotions building up inside of him, Matt did the only thing he really felt like doing: he picked up his fishing rod and headed to the mountains.

Nature has a healing effect, making it an ideal setting to take on the complacency and dullness that come with depression. Matt was determined to make a positive impact and help others improve their own mental health, and he understood that the outdoors could encourage men to bring down their guards and have genuine, honest conversations about their experiences.

He founded The Fly Programme as a result, hoping to provide an inviting environment that would reduce stigma and help men overcome the barriers preventing them from seeking treatment.

The Fly Programme, a registered Health Promotion Charity with the Australian Charities and not-for-profits, offers an escape from the stresses of daily life, allowing everyone from corporate executives to veterans struggling with PTSD to return to their daily routines with new tools to practise mindfulness and a better understanding of their own thoughts and emotions.

Out in Australia’s Snowy Mountains, participants enter an environment where they’re free to discuss their struggles. They wind along sun-spotted trails on mountain bikes, stopping at ice-blue creeks and rivers to cast a fishing line. For some, it’s the first time they’ve done either. But The Fly Programme isn’t really about fishing or riding bikes—it’s about the effect those activities have. In the beauty of the wilderness, participants aren’t pressured; they find that many others are in the same position they are, silently struggling with mental health amidst the craze of everyday life.

The idea is that the hesitation to relate their feelings can disappear as they cast a line in the river, amongst friends and supporters, hoping for a catch as the mountains rest in the background. It is a natural place, where the water is pristine and the backdrop is beautiful—a reminder of all that is right about this world.

With The Fly Programme, participants explore the great outdoors, but in the process, they also have a unique opportunity to explore themselves. They discover new places for the body and the mind. Attention to both is crucial to maintaining overall health.

We’re proud to do our part by providing The Fly Programme with mountain bikes free of charge. Matt and the unique programme he’s created are excellent examples of the bicycle’s potential to be so much more than transportation and entertainment. In the end, that’s why we do what we do: because the bicycle can be a vehicle for well-being and self-improvement, whatever that means for the individual.

If you’re struggling with mental health or know someone who lost their own battle with depression, know that you are not alone. The Fly Programme is only one example of the countless organisations out there that can help. It’s worth remembering that we are all in this together. There’s no reason to hide from life’s unpleasant moments, and there’s every reason to rediscover its beauty. Just ask Matt and the men who’ve benefitted from his programme.

Want to reach out? Contact the Fly Programme at info@flyprogram.org.au or visit flyprogram.org.au.

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