The Girl on a Bike in the Media

GQ Magazine: These four global car communities are also mental health support networks

As seen on the GQ Magazine: While it’s easier to talk about mental health now than ever before, it can still be a struggle for many, but there are people all over the world ready and able to help. Indeed, when times are tough it helps to have a community around you.

A group of like-minded people who share a common interest, who simply want others within it to be the best they can be. Within every community there’ll be someone willing to listen, and the automotive world is using its collective love of things with wheels to open the conversation and help people realise that it’s OK to not be OK.

Lewis Warren, founder of apparel, media, and meet-up brand Takona, wants to use a connection to cars as a starting point for open and honest conversation: “More often than not, I’ve found that if I have something in common, normally cars, with a person, we connect much quicker and it makes conversations flow much easier.

The girl on a bike vanessa ruck Lewis Warren

Takona sells clothing, stickers, and more, with a portion of its profits going towards supporting mental health charities. Warren’s approach is to use Takona as something of a flag to let people know that they’re on side, and willing to talk openly. Since the brand’s inception, Takona’s branched out into physical meet-ups called Coffees and Cars. What started as a small gathering, has turned into a growing network of events all over the country.

Not everyone can get themselves to a meet, despite Takona’s rapid growth. This is where Reverend Adam Gompertz and the REVS Limiter community steps in. Pre-pandemic, Rev Gompertz’s parish wasn’t a big drafty room, but a weekly classic car meet with a side of Jesus. “We were born out of a desire for me as a reverend to take church out of the building and go and be amongst people rather than expecting people to come to us,” says Gompertz. Whether you want to talk about a Jeep Compass or Jesus Christ, the REVS meetups treated you equally, and encouraged chat about everything under the sun. However, when the pandemic hit the meets had to stop for obvious reasons.

The girl on a bike vanessa ruck Takona

It kicked off as a Facebook group designed to put on a virtual show on a set day featuring 15-minute films from community members because Rev Gompertz recognised that if he was struggling, others would be as well. The chat, the opportunity to tell your own story and listen to others’ was gone, and many were feeling isolated.  “Actually doing something visual online helped people see that they weren’t the only ones who were struggling during lockdown,” Rev Gompertz said.

The girl on a bike vanessa ruck Rev Gompertz

Stories and a willingness to tell them are a huge part of helping others talk about their mental health troubles. Warwickshire’s petrolhead hub Caffeine and Machine has started an initiative to share them and encourage conversation around them. C&M founders Phil McGovern and Dan Macken started monthly evenings called I Love You, Man in the middle of 2020 (when lockdown rules allowed). Macken tells us why: “We wanted to encourage people to talk. The journey we have been on to create and develop Caffeine and Machine has provoked so many emotions and stresses for us and our team, and taken us on this weird and wonderful journey. What started out as us talking through our own experiences, developed into a desire to bring people together for a night of discussion and to normalise the idea that people struggle.”

The girl on a bike vanessa ruck Man nights

Initially hosted by McGovern and Macken, the pair relinquished hosting duties to, er, me, the evenings see a guest connected to the automotive world interviewed about their lives – both ups and downs – and then take audience questions. Guests have included Richard Porter, Julian Thomson, Ian Callum, The KYZA, George North, Vanessa Ruck, and many more, each bringing vulnerability and openness to the assembled crowd. I Love You, Man isn’t recorded, meaning guests can be a little more honest than they would be with a microphone in their face.

McGovern knows that the nights have directly helped people: “The conversations we have with our community before, during and after every event is testament to that. It’s one of the single most fulfilling elements of why we run the event and why we’re so keen to develop the platform and help as many people as we can based on the stories we have the pleasure of hearing.”

There’s no barrier to entry for the nights, bar a ticket fee that goes to the guest’s charity of choice. You’ll be welcomed whoever you are. Macken adds: “We have lots of groups of friends that choose to meet up at our ILYM evenings, but many people that visit on their own too. We take huge pride in the fact that so many people are prepared to visit alone and that the environment we create is so welcoming that they feel comfortable enough to do so.”

I Love You, Man’s evenings may tell one story at a time, but through those, audiences get a clear, relatable view, of the person on the couch.

Sometimes sitting and listening doesn’t do the trick, getting out and driving can be a help. Macken said: “For many people, cars are an escape. Going for a drive whether it’s with friends or alone, is a chance for us to clear our minds and enjoy the journey. It can be a sensory experience too, depending on what you’re driving; the touch, feel, smell and sense of freedom you get from getting in the car is unlike much else.”

For the rest of the GQ Magazine article see here.

If you’re new to my page – it’s more than just dirt bike riding, Harleys and racing, I’m on a mission to prove that nothing is impossible if you want it bad enough. See more about my story plus read about my life changing accident, which started it all.

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