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Driving through the mountains of Brisbane with Drive Against Depression


Staff journalist Zak Adkins reflects on the very first Drive Against Depression Brisbane event and took to the hills with mental health awareness front of mind and spirit

Up and away, I was off. Straight into the car with coffee lining my stomach and sunglasses covering my weary eyes. 

The day had finally arrived for Drive Against Depression’s first-ever Brisbane drive event, and I couldn’t wait to meet up with our group of passionate locals for a drive through the mountains outside of Brisbane and up to the picturesque town of Maleny for lunch. 

But this wouldn’t just be about getting behind the wheel and pointing the bonnet at the nearby mountain tops: the journey was about people, not what car they drove. 

2023 Brisbane DAD drive 2
We had a great turnout for the very first Brisbane DAD drive for mental health

To focus just as much on opening up conversations surrounding mental health and how that can intertwine with what so many of us love – getting out and going driving – is what really mattered. 

Think of all those times you’ve been in a car, chatting with a friend or a family member, with a legal obligation to put your bloody phone away. Think about the open conversations and care-free commentary happening as the world goes by.

To me, that’s perfect, and it’s that all-in-one driving experience that I’m incredibly passionate about. 

2023 Brisbane DAD drive Zak hug
Hugs all round for the lovely people at the event!

Following on from our excellent Sydney drive day to the Hunter Valley earlier in the year, Brisbane was next on my journey with the lovely folk at Drive Against Depression (DAD)

As I got in the car and drove myself to the start of the event, I couldn’t help but feel a bit emotional. A drive for mental health in my hometown, on the very roads that saved me from some of my worst days only a few short years ago. 

Driving for me, as many will now know, is nirvana. It’s picked me up out of some pretty bad spots, and when I’ve felt a fair bit down-and-out, I’ve been able to get back up and keep going. It’s amazing that going for a drive can do that to someone. It’s pretty magic. 

2023 Brisbane DAD drive Zak behind the wheel
Hitting the road in Dad’s Mazda 6 sedan

Opening up the conversations surrounding mental health 

On arrival at our location near Samford, there was plenty of time to chat amongst ourselves, and get to know each other a little better. There were new faces, old friends, even some of my extended family came to join us. 

We were fortunate enough to have mental health advocate and expert Olly Bridge along for the ride, who did such an amazing job of speaking about wellness and how to simply slow down and control our breathing in those moments when everything gets a bit much. 

2023 Brisbane DAD drive Zak speaking
Telling a bit of my story to the lovely attendees

I then had the fantastic opportunity to tell everyone a little bit about myself, of my challenging and turbulent last few years battling bipolar and schizo-affective disorders. 

I’ve struggled with my own demons since I was a teenager. From long hospital ward stays to years of rehabilitation, I’ve personally seen some of the worst parts of mental illness. 

It’s been an incredibly difficult journey, not just for myself but to also bring my family and friends on the rollercoaster ride, too. To be honest, life just really sucks sometimes. But that’s okay.

2023 Brisbane DAD drive QLD scenery
It was an absolutely glorious day for a drive in sunny Queensland

So I finished my little speech right there in the carpark with a clear message to the group: go out and ask your friends “how are you really going?” 

It’s really about checking in with friends and family. A simple “how are you going?” or “how’s the day been?” could make a significant difference to someone who is struggling significantly with their mental health.

One conversation could change everything, which is why DAD is such a brilliant cause. RUOK day only comes around once a year, and many of those you love will need help at times you least expect it.

2023 Brisbane DAD drive 5
Winding mountain roads with family and friends: perfect

The drive 

I’ve come to learn that one of the great things about a DAD drive is the fact that you can bring whatever car you want. There is no judgement whatsoever. 

I didn’t get the time to organise anything flash like the Genesis G70 Shooting Brake I had last time, so my lovely Dad thankfully loaned me his Mazda 6 to drive for the day. 

And although it was by no means a Lotus Elise or Mazda MX-5, it did the job perfectly well, and a memorable moment was throwing my brother, who was front passenger, through some of the finest bends in south-east Queensland in the Mazdarati (as my Dad calls it). He was holding on for dear life! 

2023 Brisbane DAD drive Zak with DJ
Zak with DAD Director David James (DJ)

As we wound our way up through the mountains behind Brisbane, it was nice to catch up with my brother who I am very close with. We just talked about life and nonsense, which was perfect. That’s what Drive Against Depression is all about. 

Eventually, the roads opened up a bit and the Mazda happily carried us along in plenty of comfort, and before we knew it, we had arrived in Maleny for lunch. 

It was so good to see family, friends and other acquaintances there to share a meal. A big thanks goes to everyone for making it such a special day. 

2023 Brisbane DAD drive Zak with Olly Bridge
Zak speaking with mental wellness advocate Olly Bridge

I very much appreciated it when DAD director David James, or DJ as he is known, came up and gave me a big hug before we left. I could see in his eyes that he had been touched by the day and the atmosphere and just being there. He thanked me for being brave and talking about my experiences – something I just love to do. 

DJ promised that we would do more drives: some more in Sydney, another one or two in Brisbane, and that just made me really happy. 

2024 is certainly going to be a good one.

2023 Brisbane DAD drive Zak family shot
A big thanks goes to my beautiful family for their endless support!

Check out Drive Against Depression here.

If you need help, there are several ways you can get the support you need with the numbers below:

Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14 

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636

Mensline Australia: 1300 78 99 78

Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800

Emergency: 000

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