Thank you, Australia.
What a journey. Over the past 15 months, we’ve travelled the length and breadth of this country. Clocking up 53,000km as we roamed through remote and rural townships, regional centres and capital cities – meeting as many people as possible and covering as much ground as our 10-tonne, 35-year-old school bus would allow in 460 days!
The 80 Beyond Blue staff who spent time on the road (nearly all of all our employees) are better for it. We hope that the places we’ve been and the people we’ve met will be better for it too. I know I am most definitely better for it.
I learnt that the value of a listening ear cannot be underestimated. Everybody has a story to tell, and that story is worth hearing. You don’t need to be a mental health professional to provide support and encouragement to someone. Often, the simple act of listening – really listening – is the greatest support you can offer. (Quick plug, check out our Have the conversation resources.)
People are resilient. I’ve spoken to countless individuals who have survived the worst situations, the worst in others, and sometimes the worst in themselves. No matter what the circumstances, no matter how great the challenge, where there is hope, there is resilience. Where there is resilience, there is hope.
Suicide is heartbreaking. It’s a waste. It ruins lives. It happens everywhere and it happens far too often. We need to stop people hurting themselves, and hurting others. (See our Suicide prevention resources.)
People are better together; I mean in a community sense. A social network is a great protective factor for people’s mental health. What’s even better? People who give together – their time, their skills, themselves. On the road, if we ever needed a helping hand, we knew we could always phone the local Lions Club, Rotary Club, Men’s Shed, or any other group actively giving back to its community. Hand on heart, members of these groups are some of the most generous people I’ve come across.
The first step is always the hardest. Admitting that something’s not right, that you’re not coping, is the biggest hurdle for people. It takes guts. It’s brave. I’ve never had a conversation with someone who regretted taking that first step. Often, they’ve regretted the length of time it took for them to put their hand up and take action.
Everyone can be proactive when it comes to their mental health. These days, children learn yoga and meditation in school to help cope with life’s challenges. What helps your mental health? What activities add to your sense of wellbeing? I’m not saying going for a jog will solve life’s problems, but there’s a lot to be gained by identifying the things that keep you well, and actually doing them. (Make your mental health pledge.)
Being a carer can be tough. Some of the most difficult conversations I had were with mothers, fathers, partners, siblings etc. who felt hopeless, helpless, frustrated. People who care for someone with depression or anxiety need support. And they deserve acknowledgement for the huge, positive contributions they make.
Australia is vast. It’s a big country; I mean, really big. This presents a lot of challenges for services. Some health professionals I spoke to are responsible for areas hundreds of square kilometres in size. Some places seem to have an abundance of services. Others have none. The system needs to change, to innovate. There are plenty of dedicated people out there doing amazing work. It was a pleasure working with lots of them out on the road. They are at the coalface day in, day out, and they are changing lives. We salute them.
The butterfly is recognised, everywhere. By and large, people not only trust Beyond Blue implicitly, but have a real sense of ownership over it. They are invested in what we are working towards collectively – creating change to protect everyone’s mental health and improving the lives of individuals, families and communities affected by depression, anxiety and suicide. Our supporters, far and wide, are the beating heart of this organisation. We can’t thank you enough.
This is the final blog post for the Beyond Blue National Roadshow. To keep up to date with Beyond Blue, you can sign up to our e-newsletter.