“Anyone who sits on a motorbike takes in a lot from the outside world, with mind and body. In this environment, it seems to be easier for many people to talk about psychological problems,” says Dieter Schneider. He is the initiator of a series of motorcycle events, the “Fellows Rides”, which he launched in 2021. Her message: “With an open visor for depression help”. It is aimed at the participants as well as, via the media, at the public. The “Fellows Rides” are intended to draw attention to the widespread disease of depression and to encourage people to donate to projects that benefit “mental health”. In 2022, four trips took place in Germany and Austria, this year there are 14 dates on the program, from May to October – in Germany, including for the first time in Berlin, in Austria, Romania and Portugal.
A conversation with Dieter Schneider quickly turns into a kind of trip around the world. Born in Koblenz in 1959, the former Olympic fencer is a passionate motorcycle traveler. In Würzburg he began his professional career in the media and advertising industry and started a family. The turning point in his life was the death of his son, who took his own life at the age of 23 after a severe depression.
A year later, in 2015, Dieter Schneider embarked on a four-month trans-African tour that took him from Würzburg to Cape Town. In June 2018 he started a 130,000 km circumnavigation of the world, which was interrupted by the corona pandemic. “I raced through countries, I was in Honduras for exactly one day, for example. I’ve often only seen the surface,” he says. Schneider has meanwhile arrived in Portugal and he wants to spend the next few years in the Algarve hinterland.
When the soul has wanderlust
The trip around the world not only helped him to cope with the blow of fate and to process the grief. The tour also became an initiative to break a taboo subject. Schneider had to painfully realize that many people find it difficult to interpret and correctly classify the symptoms of depression. In the world of work, in schools and universities as well as in private life, there is still a lot of catching up to do.
As a father, he was indirectly affected by the consequences of the disease. “I’m not a psychologist, I just want to help create a climate where mental crises can be discussed openly,” he says. “I want to encourage people who are directly and indirectly affected and take away their fear of stigmatization.” Encourage them to seek medical help in good time, just like with any other illness. “People with mental illness often have no lobby. The more we talk about it openly, the more things will change for the better.”
In the meantime, many people who have heard about him, his travels and the “Fellows Rides” approach him directly with their stories and concerns. “Affected people pour out their hearts and I ask myself: How do I deal with this? I’m not a therapist.”