A GROUP of eight paramedics and emergency service workers on motorbikes stopped in Maffra and Sale on Wednesday as part of a four-day ride through the state to highlight the importance of mental health.
The Breakthrough Ride, now in its fourth year, was co-founded by veteran paramedic Tim Jobling in a bid to normalise the conversation around posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, particularly within the emergency services.
Ambulance Victoria clinical operations executive director Mick Stephenson saw off more than 25 riders as they left the Exhibition Buildings in the Fitzroy Gardens last Monday, with about eight coming all the way to Sale, before heading to Lakes Entrance on Thursday.
The ride raises money for the Code 9 Foundation, which sponsors peer support dogs for emergency service workers who are suffering PTSD, depression and anxiety.
Mr Jobling said it was his own experience of PTSD that prompted him to create the Breakthrough Ride.
"I know how important it is to seek help if you feel you are becoming burnt out, have been exposed to a traumatic incident at work, or just feel that things are getting too much," he said.
"The Breakthrough Ride is a chance for people to feel that someone has their back, to share some laughter with like-minded people and just have a break from the pressures of work."
Mr Jobling said the committee members had all been affected by PTSD, either directly or indirectly.
"We are committed to working hard to removing the stigma surrounding mental illness and to make it something people aren't embarrassed or ashamed to talk about," he said.
The ride's stopping locations have featured guest speakers, including mental health professionals and PTSD survivors, live music and free entertainment.
The ride finished at the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority headquarters in Burwood.
"We've chosen to finish with a barbecue at ESTA this year because we know that the people who answer calls to Triple Zero and dispense first aid advice before paramedics arrive are also under immense pressure and exposed to traumatic events," Mr Jobling said.
For people experiencing difficulties, Lifeline (phone 13 11 14) and Beyondblue (1300 224 636) offer support. If someone is in immediate danger, phone 000.