“My name is Brent Allchorn, also known as Brent Simpson. I’m 38 years old, a father of four children and I have lived with mental illness throughout my entire adult life. I was diagnosed as Bipolar and I remain medicated which allows me to live a fulfilling life,” he writes on his website.
Not a slight man, Brent looks tough but he isn’t afraid to show his vulnerabilities. A former member of an outlaw Gold-Coast motorcycle club, Brent was serving a 6-year jail sentence when he was faced with sharp reality. “While I was there two men took their own lives. I realised I could have been one of them. I really started thinking how I can help prevent this from happening – all the while battling my own demons living with Bipolar.”
It was upon his release that Brent started cycling. “I was into a ride of 150kms and it was tough with some really big climbs. It was a heavy ride,” he explains.
He then drew a comparison between the physical weight of gravity bearing down with every peddle.
“Life gets heavy, just like that ride and the climbs and you need to hit your way through because on the other side of those heavy climbs was the down hill and what a rush that was coming flying down with a big smile and loving life.” From that realisation, Heavy Hiterz was born.
Wanting to have his voice heard above the crowd, Brent set out to achieve a feat that was never completed before: riding across Australia in the name of mental health awareness. “I wanted to do something big to let the world know that you are not alone, so why not cycle across our beautiful country from east to west.”
As well as raising capital for donations, Brent relished the opportunity to engage with local communities along the way. “Each rural town across Australia wanted the same – to be heard, to receive more support and more resources to address the high suicide rates and mental illnesses.”
With full understanding that there is no hope without better education and more funding; Brent concedes, “we can no longer just pass it off and turn a blind eye to the truth of what is happening in our world today; in our own homes. We need people to listen, they need to know they are not alone and it’s OK to not be OK.”
First, he calls for education. Then, awareness. Next, support. “We need to make people aware that mental illness and suicide affects us all. People living with mental illness that are strong enough to speak up need to be heard – they are the ones who can make a change. By sharing their journey and showing others that they are not alone.”
But even with his commitment and composure, Brent wasn’t immune to the perils of the road. “On the second day, I crashed and hit a pothole, front flipped onto the gravel, tore my elbow and knee apart, cracking my helmet.” With a swollen elbow, Brent knew that things weren’t tip-top, but he wasn’t prepared for what came next. “I cleaned the cuts and the gravel. I bought anti-inflammatory medication because my elbow had blown up.” Another 2500kms to Ceduna and Brent’s conditions steadily declined. Admitted to hospital with the onset of septicaemia, Brent’s elbow “looked like my knee,” he recalls. “I was flown to Royal Adelaide Hospital and operated on. I had fractured my elbow and had a burst bursitis sack and blood infection.”
Nine days later, Brent signed himself out against all medical advice and flew back. “I cycled 2000kms to complete my world first East2West journey in 45 days.”
With an iron will, Brent pushed on. “The wild life, the colour of the earth even the different rocks and trees; each day I knew I was that little bit closer to my goal. The wind and rain was constant but refreshing because no matter what I was going forward and not looking back. I had been through so much in my life; pain, trauma that I knew I could do this.”
And he did. One day at a time. “Living with Bipolar each day is harder than cycling. I love cycling, I live with Bipolar but don’t enjoy it, I just except it and do the best I can with it,” he reflects. “Accepting that you have a mental illness and conceiving how you can manage to live your life with a mental illness – lifestyle is a massive part,” often a personal trigger, Brent now understands. “Exercise is huge, now if I don’t do it for a few days, I go downhill real fast. Lifestyle and managing your mental illness is a big part of wellness.”
Now two years old, Heavy Hiterz has come a long way. After recently gaining non-profit status, Brent is now focusing on setting up an advisory board. “I would like to see us become financially strong enough to implement and deliver better support and education programmes targeting our outer regional communities. To have a strong presence in our schools and provide safe places for people to come too,” he colludes. Heavy Hiterz is also considering an app, designed to connect and encourage conversation around mental health.