I recently had cause to pause for thought.
My great mate Scotty Newman had asked me to co-drive with him throughout 2018, in the Victorian Rally Championship. John Carney, a well-known figure in rallying circles, had offered the opportunity to try out his freshly-built Ford Fiesta R1 with a view to getting a one-model rally series off the ground.
Being rally-mad, but also wanting to help a supportive mate (trust me, I wouldn’t co-drive for many people!) I jumped at the chance… particularly because John was fine with us sporting a couple of Drive Against Depression stickers on the Fiesta’s snout.
But while the thought process here was near-instant, it was in upgrading my CAMS licence to Clubman Rally level that my state of mind came under scrutiny.
Quite rightly, CAMS asks prospective participants to list any history of illness, physical but also mental. My declaration of depression meant I had to gain a reference and health check from a certified practitioner, in my case my recently-retained psychologist.
What provoked further thought was the insinuation that somehow, my mental wellness would limit my ability to navigate, or indeed drive, in a motorsport context. For me, it’s a no-brainer; the actual exercise of driving – heck, just simply being around rally cars – is about as powerful an anti-depressant for me as anything else.
The operative phrase in that last paragraph is: for me.
Of course, everyone is different. And that’s why CAMS covers its bases, to keep everyone as safe as possible.
Thankfully, in my case the psychologist did not hesitate in writing a thorough assessment of my ability to participate in motorsport, and how it actually helps with my symptoms.
As an extension of this mental journey, I googled ‘Drive Against Depression’. While proud of the first page results for our charity, the second page started referencing driving as a contributor to other’s struggles. It opened up fresh lanes of understanding, and new-found empathy for those who are anxious on the road… and how their mental state can be impacted by others’ impatience.
I’ll be the first to admit I get frustrated with road users, for several reasons, but this has given me pause for thought. Going forward, I will try and be more understanding.
Just don’t get in our way on the rally stage!