Dakar Challenge drives PTSD recovery

Nine veterans took on the Dakar Challenge 2018 of driving 1,000 miles across the Sahara Desert to help combat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The basis of the Dakar Challenge 2018 was to take a handful of vehicles unsuitable for the desert, in this case 16-year-old Citroen Berlingo’s, fill them with veterans and get them to drive across the original Dakar Rally route through Morocco. Covering 1,000 miles of sand, gravel and rock, the challenge was exactly what attracted the veterans to the project.

Driven to Extremes was conceived by Mac Mackenney, managing director of Max Adventure, to fulfil a need to offer veterans suffering from PTSD an alternative form of therapy where conventional methods of treatment may not have the desired effect.

With the aim of the expedition to regain the teamwork and camaraderie they experienced in the Armed Forces, the participants immersed themselves in a challenging and extreme environment surrounded by people they share a common bond with – something so many veterans greatly miss.

‘We survived it, but we were completely shattered,’ said team member and former Royal Marine, Matt Abbott. ‘I never believed such cheap cars would make it through the desert. But when we went up the first dried riverbank and our little car sailed over the top, I felt a buzz I hadn’t experienced in years. I was at rock bottom before I came on the expedition, but I can see me pushing myself again now that I’m home. I feel like the old Matt again.’

Driven to Extremes is intending to repeat the expedition next year as a fund-raising event in which members of the public can take part driving their own cheap cars. They are hoping the participants from this inaugural expedition, like Matt, will become part of the support crew for the next one.