Please be aware that the below spotlight story mentions experiences related to anxiety, depression and/or suicide. If needed, we encourage you to reach out to your available supports such as family, friends or support services like Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14
Meet Jess from Victoria, who recently joined us as a Beyond Blue Speaker earlier this year. Jess has a vibrant set of hobbies that have played a vital role in her recovery.
She has a love for music, musical theatre, writing, and a passion for animals, which includes being a proud parent to three rescue dogs - Delilah, Willow, and the charming Poppy Poptart.
Jess finds solace in the presence of these animals, seeing their personal growth as a reflection of her own journey towards self-acceptance and healing.
“[There’s] nothing more amazing than watching my dogs learn to be dogs after not leading lives that allowed them to be one. That resonates with me, as someone who felt they couldn’t be themselves for such a long time…”
Overcoming years of silence
Jess's mental health journey has been marked by resilience and courage in the face of daunting challenges.
Diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and generalised and social anxiety, Jess's struggles began at the tender age of 10.
"It took me almost 18 years before I worked up the courage to see my GP, see a psychiatrist and begin my recovery."
Community and identity - Empowering the LGBTIQ+ community
“One part of my story is suppressing my sexuality as a teenager, which added another layer of trauma that I had to overcome. “
From personal experience, Jess is intensely aware of the mental health challenges faced by the LGBTIQ+ community and believes in the power of self-acceptance and seeking help without fear of judgment.
Becoming the voice she needed
"When I was going through my journey, all I wanted was to hear someone, anyone, say something that made me feel I wasn't alone in what I was feeling."
Jess aspires to be the voice she wished she had during her darkest moments, offering hope and understanding to others facing similar battles.
Favourite moment as a Speaker:
Jess cherishes those one-on-one interactions with audience members after an event. The gratitude expressed by someone who feels heard and understood affirms that she is making a meaningful impact.
Standout speaking moment - adding humour when sharing her lived experience
"I tried to beatbox [and] rap once, which was a hit with the audience but made me realise my skill set sits with speaking, not rapping."
Jess incorporates humour into speech by quoting Eminem's lyrics about anxiety.
Managing her health conditions
Aside from the therapeutic companionship of her dogs, Jess maintains good mental health through weekly sessions with a psychologist, regular visits to her GP, and a close-knit circle of friends who provide mutual support and accountability.
Jess emphasises the importance of asking for help when needed.
Jess's message to the audience:
“Watch out for your people because they might not be able to watch out for themselves.”
Jess says a simple question about her wellbeing could have made a world of difference and stresses the importance of reaching out and supporting those who may be silently suffering.
“There are so many catalysts in my journey where if someone had simply asked if I was ok then my life may have taken a positive turn sooner rather than later, because I had no idea how unwell I actually was until it was almost too late.”
Jess's advice to other Speakers:
Embrace the nerves.
“You’re going to be nervous. Nervous is good. Speaking your truth and your story is not easy and it shouldn’t be.”
Jess encourages practice, even if it means rehearsing your speech to your dogs.
Future endeavours - Championing mental health in new avenues
"What I am really looking forward to is running a Big Blue Table event for the construction workers I work with in October."
Jess also eagerly anticipates a series of speeches on R U OK? Day, a testament to her commitment to mental health awareness.
Balancing advocacy and self-care
"Your voice is important, don't forget to use it but always remember to look after yourself first."
Jess's journey from addiction advocacy to becoming a Beyond Blue Speaker is proof of the transformative power of lived experience. She firmly believes in the impact of personal stories in creating social change.
Jess actively participated in the Rethink Addiction campaign Real Stories of Addiction, where Jess, with the support of her dog Delilah, shared their journey.
This courageous endeavour involved interviews and filming for a series of videos aimed at reducing stigma surrounding addiction.