Hospital Chaplain Pushes the Pedals for Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month

6th November 2023
Lead Chaplain at Ulster Hospital, Don Gamble, stands with his bike

South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust Lead Chaplain, Reverend Don Gamble extols the virtues of cycling to mark Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month.

A familiar face to many patients, their families and staff across the Trust, Lead Chaplain Don Gamble has spoken of how he seeks the positives in his passion for cycling and how it and a pocketful of daily mindfulness can form awareness as part of Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month throughout November.

Building up from two miles in the saddle to his now daily commute to the Dundonald site, Don highlighted the “great health and social benefits” of cycling and the fact you don’t need the top of range bike to start, “just one that fits you properly!”

“It’s not always easy to talk about our emotions, I have found cycling a great place to be for me, it strengthens my body and supports my mind,” explained Don.

“At times it can be difficult for us men to ask for support. I remember coming out of lockdown and, to be honest, I found it much more difficult than going into lock down. I had lost a lot of my social side. What I found helped me more than anything else was when people would stop me and ask, ‘Don, how are you doing?’ And I started to say, well I’m not doing great. I realised at 56, just like I have to do exercise for my body, I have to exercise mentally. My mind just won’t look after me and go on and on unless I start looking after it and doing a bit more mindfulness.

“It’s not always easy to talk about our emotions but it’s so important to be aware of others, we are all here to offer support.”

It’s the practice of mindfulness that Don adopts and finds most helpful when he begins to set off on his cycling journey. “The first half an hour on the bike can be torture, the seat is uncomfortable, my arms start to ache, my legs start to ache, my back and then after half an hour my body realises it’s a cycling day. Things come in and out of mind for work, for home and then that disappears because I’m beginning to get out of breath and then I’m concentrating on keeping upright, getting the breath right, switched off from everything else. When you are totally focused in the here and now then you are doing your mind a real good work out.”

Don added, “A lot of work in chaplaincy is around our behaviour and what is going on with us – as that can have an effect on the visit that we have with the patient. Because we visit them, our own self-awareness is very important, so that we are able to listen and really hear the patient.”