Matt tackles a subject very close to his heart. Never be afraid to speak up or reach out for help. Cars can be a great medium we can all use to communicate
would like to start my column off this issue with a proviso, in that the subject will be a bit heavier hitting than usual. As we reach the end of ‘Blue January’ and with life returning to a level of pre-pandemic normality, it seems only right to continue talking about it.
I’m sure you’ll have cottoned on to what the subject is by now, as the terms ‘mental health’ and ‘mental wellbeing’ have been buzzwords thrown around in the last two years by media outlets and in weekly video call meetings. This has raised awareness of the negative, and sometimes fatal issues declining states of mental health can cause. Positive mental health is something we can all foster, by taking time away from our professional obligations in favour of doing things for ourselves.
Good mental health is even more relevant to us in the car community as the people involved are predominantly males. According to the ‘Campaign Against Living Miserably’ (CALM, thecalmzone.net), 125 lives are lost every week to suicide and 75% of all UK suicides are males. Although this statistic is bleak, there is hope as the various outfits combating these issues have grown during lockdown. These campaigns and the people behind them are trying to normalise talking and re-writing the toxic rhetoric of ‘men being men’ and dealing with their problems on their own, afraid to show emotion for fear of showing weakness.
Giving these issues exposure and awareness breaks down the stigmas surrounding them to build better habits in their place and what better way to do this than combine it with passion. Members of the automotive community have recognised this and are building movements with this in mind. People such as Lewis Warren (www.takona.co.uk) and Dan Pendry-Moore (www.sadboiraceclub.co.uk) are leveraging social media and access to large groups of like minded individuals to push this message. Encouraging people to open up, talk more and create a support network that recognises the signs and acts to prevent the worst outcome.
Where do cars come into this then? As we know, they have been found not only to help you get from one place to another quicker than walking, but also having more of a psychological impact on mental wellbeing than ‘non-car people’ might think. This isn’t news to us, seeing as you’re reading this in a (bloody good) car magazine, I’d put money on the fact that cars provide you with an escape, give you a gateway to a community or are simply something to take pride in.
These lovable piles of metal, rubber and plastic are more than just commuter vessels moving people from one place to another, they represent achievement, something to focus our energies on, something to be proud of. These friendship circles and support networks come from a common interest levelling the playing field, whether you’re a 60-year-old millionaire or a 17-year-old just getting your first car, the love for all things automotive connects us.
The act of driving, for some people is a mundane chore, something they have to do when others see the journey as the destination and revel in improving their skills at it. Driving is a task, when done properly, that is just challenging enough to demand concentration and achievable enough to keep focus, for many of us it is an easy way to slip into a state of flow.
Cars are an excellent form of expression too, as seen in countries like Japan, America and the UK. If we can’t afford to customize in real life, we do it virtually or on a smaller scale with models or RC cars. Cars can be collectables, something to strive for, motivation to get up and earn and if we are not old/financial well off enough to do it with life size ones, we go smaller (I’m writing this sat next to my humble but sizeable Hot Wheels collection), there is always a level to get involved with cars. Above all else, cars give us a thrill, they get the adrenaline flowing, heart racing, blood pumping, the call of the accelerator is too great to ignore and taking a drive down some twisty back roads is a glorious way to clear your head of life’s numerous nagging responsibilities, if only for a moment.
The benefits of car culture for those that invest time and effort into it are clear and the stellar work of people like Dan and Lewis is applauded and encouraged by all those from in and out of the ‘scene’. As it is on a smaller scale, from the friends and contacts you’ve personally made from car related ventures, every time you send a car video, speak to someone at a show or like a build on social, you add positive value to this community we are all trying to foster. Let’s continue to normalise speaking out about our feelings and checking in on our friends regularly, take time for yourself, go for a drive, clean your car, fix that oil leak, now is the time to lean into your passion to ensure your mental health is kept in check.