The Ripple Effect


To me, mental health is everything.

If you don’t have a healthy mind it can affect you in so many ways and so many people these days seems to be affected by some form of mental illness. Whether it be anxiety, depression, weight issues, bipolar, manic depressive, alcoholism or drug abuse, and in all sorts of extremes people seem to be affected.

I was chatting with a friend the other day and she put it to me that she thinks that no one escapes it these days; everyone, at some point in their lives, will be touched by mental illness. I think she’s right and it makes me feel really sad and it makes me want to help.

As some of you know, my father died from suicide when I was young. His death has affected me throughout my life in various ways and probably more as an adult and as a mother than it did at the time. Last year I reached a point where I needed to get some professional help. I think Dad’s death effected my resilience and so things that shouldn’t have been a big deal became a big deal for me. I had a really difficult friendship that caused me a lot of anxiety and things had got to the point where I was feeling sad more than I was happy so I started meditating and I saw my GP and got a referral to a therapist. At the time I wondered if I was being paranoid, but to me that’s the point, who cares if I was! I think we all need to be a bit more paranoid and seek help earlier. We go to the doctor for a cold or a sore throat all the time and don’t even think twice about it, so why then is it such a MASSIVE deal to go to the doctor if our heads aren’t feeling right?

Dad and I when I was a wee tacker

I’ve decided to share my story because of a new project called The Ripple Effect. For a long time I have wanted to get involved with advocating for good mental health and for prevention rather than cure and a holistic approach to treatment. A few months ago I found out about The Ripple Effect project and I applied to be on the steering committee. The Ripple Effect has been set up by the National Centre for Farmer Health and funded by Beyond Blue, to investigate whether a digital platform can help reduce the stigma around suicide in men in rural communities, “farmers helping farmers beat suicide.” The Ripple Effect is a platform for people from farming communities to share their experience of suicide. The idea is that by sharing what helped you, you can help others. I am so pleased to be involved with this project and I really hope that it can make a difference. For me it’s about helping make sure that no more Dads die from this terrible illness by helping make sure that that the stigma is reduced so that people seek help earlier. It’s also about the many flow-on effects that a project with this sort of awareness might bring for the wider community.

I have recently started having some great conversations with some beautiful friends about what we can do to build resilience and good mental health in our community. We really want to help as many people as possible to build mental resilience and to have good wellbeing and I want my kids to have healthy minds and good resilience so they can cope with whatever comes their way. I feel so strongly that prevention is so important when it comes to mental health and it’s about building resilience. The thing is it doesn’t matter how great your life looks or how many things you own or how much money you have, mental illness effects everyone. I am living the life I wanted to live,  I have a beautiful family and wonderful friends, but I still became affected. My Dad, was the same – on the outside his life looked fantastic, he was into lots of things, a very social and outgoing person, but he just got sick.  Maybe if we can all gain skills and tools for recognising when our minds are not quite right, we can all get help earlier and recognise when our friends and family aren’t quite right too.

It’s so awesome to see that the Federal Government has acknowledged how importat mental health is recently and the effect it has on productivity. Susan Ley is our local member and the Health Minister and she has said she really wants to help with the work that we are doing. She tweeted to me last week and I got quite emotional. This stuff is really important and it was so great to see that she wants to help.

With Christmas coming up it’s a good time to think about your family and friends and take a bit more notice of what’s going on with you or people around you. If you think there’s something not quite right with you or a friend or family member then do something. Go to the Doctor, have a conversation, just do something. You can’t do any harm by asking someone if they are OK. Sometimes just knowing that someone cares enough to ask if they are OK can help. The important thing is just to do something and not leave it.

It’s been 12 months since I went to the doctor and I now feel as though my mental health is in pretty good shape and my mind is healthy. I am so blessed to have a beautiful family and awesome friends who have helped me a lot and who I am so, so grateful for. I still meditate twice a day and I know this will be something I have to keep working on. Mental health is like physical health, you have to work at it and maintain it and you can improve it!

It’s Dad’s birthday next week, he would have been 61. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss him and wonder what things would be like if he was here. Our family and our friends are so important, we are all important, so look out for each other and yourselves and let’s all help each other to have happy health minds so we can all live long and beautiful lives.

Please head over and check out The Ripple Effect website and “do your bit to turn the negative ripple of suicide into a positive ripple of support”.

I’m also looking for people to be community champions for the project so please get in touch if you’d like to help too.

If you’re interested in learning more about meditating and mindfulness, check out Smiling Mind or Headspace and also The Broad Place.