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One Tribe Foundation partners with UTA on mental health research

Written by Mindia Whittier

The study examines motorcycle riding as a unique form of healing for veterans and first responders.

One Tribe Foundation and researchers at The University of Texas (UTA) are partnering on a study to determine whether veterans and first responders experience therapeutic mental health benefits from motorcycle riding.

For the study, being led by faculty and students in UTA’s School of Social Work, riders answered survey questions on their experiences with so-called wind therapy. In follow-up interviews, participants discussed how motorcycle riding brought mental clarity and relaxation that lasted anywhere from a few hours to a full night.

“We were particularly interested in learning how veterans were using non-traditional therapy during COVID-19 to cope with social distancing,” said Donna Schuman, assistant professor of social work at UTA. “There was concern that social isolation would worsen mental health outcomes for veterans, including increasing suicidal thoughts or behaviors.”

The research team reports it is finding that for many veterans, especially those who typically do not pursue more traditional forms of therapy, riding is a way to cope.

“Being strong and self-reliant are values inculcated in the military,” Schuman said. “Seeking help can be perceived as a sign of weakness. Even though military members may have been told that it is not weak to seek mental health care, many still struggle with that.”

One Tribe Foundation’s mission is to create a community that raises awareness and combats suicide by empowering veterans, first responders, medical frontline workers and their families through traditional and non-traditional therapies. Its Wind Therapy Program introduces participants to the therapeutic benefits of motorcycle riding and the supportive nature of the riding community.

Funding for the project was received from the competitive 2021 Cheryl Milkes Moore Endowed Professorship in Mental Health Research Grant.

The Wind Therapy Program study remains active and is looking for participants who are over 18 years old and have ridden a motorcycle to manage stress since March 2020. Military service or first responder experience is not required to participate. More information is available on the UTA School of Social Work’s website.

About the author

Mindia Whittier