An epic road trip to recovery: The story of one man, his family and their life-saving dog
A FORMER emergency services worker is taking his family and his psychiatric assistance dog on a 70,000-kilometre odyssey around Australia this year to increase support for people suffering from anxiety and depression.
Paul Roadley is undertaking the epic 12-month journey from May this year, accompanied by his wife Kirstine, their three young children and their specially trained German shepherd, Luna. Called ‘Driving Oz with the Black Dog’, the Roadleys’ fundraising drive will take them through every state and territory – from Perth to Port Arthur, Cooktown to Kununurra and everywhere in between. They are aiming to raise $100,000 for LifeLine Australia (www.lifeline. org.au) and $100,000 for mindDog Australia (www. minddog.org.au). The Roadley’s hope to enrich the lives of more than one million people they meet on their travels by giving them potentially life-saving information. They are also using their journey to raise community awareness and acceptance of the vital role played by psychiatric assistance dogs, better known as Mental Health Assistance Dogs. “Luna’s a real life-saver; she’s always keeping an eye on me,” Paul said. “She’s been trained to sense when I’m down or feeling anxious and keeps bugging me until I give her the right cues to show I’m okay. If I’m having a nightmare, she jumps on the bed to wake me up and lies on top of me until I’ve calmed down. She’s a 25 kilo bundle of persistent, mindful reassurance!”
Paul spent 27 years in emergency services, including as a frontline responder to road accidents, fires, drownings and countless other human tragedies. In July last year, the cumulative effects, combined with other adverse events, became too much. Paul left his job and contemplated ending his life. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety and depression.
“Mental health problems are a silent killer,” Paul said. “Just because someone doesn’t show outward signs of a problem, that doesn’t mean they’re okay on the inside. And people working in emergency services are some of the worst affected. “Many people are really struggling with life, and organisations like Lifeline and mindDog Australia are there to help them,” said Paul. “These organisations urgently need all the support we can give them. mindDog is run by volunteers and has had to stop taking new clients for 12 months because they can’t keep up with the demand.” The Roadleys moved from Victoria to rural Western Australia last year. They began their journey in Victoria in May, and will arrive back in Victoria 12 months later. They are filming and photographing their journey and plan to produce a book and DVD about their adventure.