Australian actor Katherine Langford has taken on a challenging, yet necessary role, in playing Hannah Baker in the Netflix hit show '13 Reasons Why,' a character who has already committed suicide citing constant bullying and harassment from her High School colleagues, and releasing 13 'tapes' to the perpetrators to explain her actions as her parting thoughts.
I will preface the remainder of this article by saying, I have not made it all the way through the series. It is heavy. There is subject matter in the episodes that takes me a few days to process, but I am eager to finish it off, not merely to find out what happens in the end, but for the over-arching message that this series is sending out.
Suicide and mentally ill-health have been a taboo topic for far too long - particularly in Australia - we've got a "toughen up" reputation and it seems we like to keep it that way.
There are reasons for not reporting or bringing attention to suicide as a whole, and these reasons are valid, don't get me wrong, but they are also part of the problem.
The fact that we don't talk about either of these things, particularly as teens, means that we fail to understand exactly what they are, how to cope with and deal with such feelings, and importantly how having these thoughts doesn't mean that you need to - or are intending to - take action.
The Black Dog Institute and Mission Australia collaborated to produce the latest 'Five Year Mental Health Report' in Australia and it found that almost a quarter of Australian teens are suffering from the symptoms of a mental illness. Thats one in four, in classrooms and hallways all around the country. This has risen from 19% in their previous report released five years prior.
Mental Illness' prevalence continues to soar among the general population in Western cultures. Whereas there are many individual triggers that may vary peoples' onset of symptoms, many could be identified as societal pressure and peer pressure.
So why don't we start talking about it? Why don't we lift the supposed 'ban' that seems to exist over suicide, over the absolute epidemic we are facing?
13 Reasons Why is a step in the right direction for the acceptance of mentally ill-health in the grand scheme of things, and a step in the right direction to aid the discussions we need to have, but seem to not be having at all.
Back to the young, 21 year-old Katherine Langford who is at the centre of it all during her portrayal. Imagine how difficult a decision taking this role must be for someone of her age, confronted - no doubt - by things she would have witnessed (actively or passively) at her own time in High School; chastised on one side for the role but praised on the other; the flood of fan mail, messages, tweets and interactions she must have faced. Not all of it good.
With a role like this, comes something very harrowing. There will no doubt have been people suffering from a bout of differing symptoms that would have seen Hannah Baker as an idol, that would have fogged the glass between entertainment and reality, and I am absolutely certain that young Katherine Langford has had to be privy to some disturbing content over recent times.
People will have reached out, people will have praised her but most dangerously, people will have probably told her that her portrayal gave them the courage to leave this world.
Playing Hannah Baker is the bravest and most significant part of this series, because not only is it opening the world up to a long dismissed and forgotten about area of society, but it comes with its own set of stressors and challenges of which we can only imagine the outcomes and the pain that it may have caused.
Things could have been done a little better - if anything I'd like to have seen a content warning or conselling numbers displayed at the beginning of each episode (NOT the end, because the habit of Netflix users is to skip the credits), that being said, I for one believe that the positives of bringing these issues to the fore far outweigh what negatives may lie within.
We need to progress as a society. We need to remain inclusive and we certainly need to understand - more than ever - how our actions could potentially affect others. Possibly fatally, as in Hannah's case.
Look out for each other.
If you are uncomfortable with the content in this article or are experiencing any symptoms of a mental illness, please contact (Australia only):
LIFELINE - 13 11 14
BEYOND BLUE - 1300 224 636
SUICIDE CALL BACK SERVICE - 1300 659 467
After a relocation from Brisbane, and a long time honing his singer/songwriter skills through the open mic scene of Melbourne, we spoke to Greg Steps about inspiration, influence and lemon trees in the lead up to the launch of his upcoming EP, ‘The Overland’, accompanied by his band – The Not for Prophets – which is taking place on Friday, February 24th at the esteemed Wesley Anne band room.
Before making the big move from Brisbane to Melbourne, Greg Steps had featured in a number of somewhat noisier, heavier band-type situations without ever really trying to go at it alone. Until the day that he did, and realised that Brisbane was no place for a solo singer/songwriter to develop.
“Brisbane doesn’t have – or at least to my knowledge – doesn’t have much of a folk scene,” reminisces Steps beneath the lemon tree at his Coburg residence, “Whereas down in Melbourne, with open mics and stuff like that, and plenty of like-minded individuals… so it just seemed like a good idea at the time”
Having been in Melbourne for what’s coming up to four years now, you would be quite likely to walk into any of the abundance of open mic nights at any given time and find Greg Steps on the list to play – belting his heart out with his slightly country twang and the storytelling nous of a folk star in the making.
Greg has not only used this scene to build connections in the new place he calls home, but also to reinforce his already clear line of talent, and present a form of his music that he had not always been 100% comfortable with.
“Open mic is kind of a dirty word… especially amongst ‘real musicians’…” says Greg, “But for artists like myself, it’s been really important for my development and pretty much everyone I know in Melbourne is purely through the open mic circuit”
To really appreciate the Greg Steps experience, you need to see the live show. There are a number of singer/songwriters in this town whom you can tell just how much the story they are sharing with the audience means to them, and Steps is no exception, with raw emotion not only shown in what you see from his physicality in front of you, but with the way in which he relaxes deeper into every song, calmly blows away at his impressive collection of harmonicas and speaks of each tune with a memory.
Stylistically, it is difficult to pinpoint Greg’s crossroads. It’s some sort of a coming together of alt-country, folk and a dash of that ‘Australiana’ thing – a Jackson Browne meets Neil Young meets Paul Kelly kind of quality.
“It’s quite bizarre how it came about, because I don’t listen to that much folk music, and country; country is a genre I know nothing about… maybe connections through people like Neil Young, with a bit of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, even though they are not strictly country,” he emanates; “It was more songwriting that I was drawn to, and folk and country, I think, is just an excellent format for writing songs”
“It’s like the bare bones of the song,” Greg continues, recounting his adornment for the rawness and openness of the singer/songwriter format; “[The songs are] completely stripped back, and there’s little distraction and I really am drawn to that…”
“When you have a band, there’s a lot of options that can distract how bad a song can be… [but] there’s no tricks to folk and country music. If the songs’s not good, it’s not good! It’s blatantly obvious.”
‘Early Hours of Morning’ was a video release from Greg Steps in 2016 which told a somewhat solitary and dark tale and proved to be a very worthy visual accompaniment to the song itself. This was Greg’s first foray into the world of music videos, and the hardest part of the process, he says, isn’t probably what many people would think.
“Acting was really hard. I never realised that walking, and trying to make it look like you’re walking normally – I’ve never been so self-conscious about walking in my life – they just said ‘walk normally,’ I’ve never walked normally in my life – then I had to think about it…”
“You look like you’re walking and you know you’re being filmed!”
Reflecting back on the production and release of ‘The Overland’, Greg admits that the impending release has been a “long time in the making,” with songs written and being performed over a number of years and an unpaid band “doing it out of the goodness of their heart”, Greg outwardly possesses a gratitude for the kindness and support they have shown to believe in his songs and be an integral part of this project.
Greg Steps & The Not for Prophets release & launch the EP ‘The Overland’ on Friday, February 24th at The Wesley Anne – 250 High St, Northcote. Support from Anna Cordell and Oliver Downes. Tickets $10 at the door with CDs available on the night.
Following the success of Australia-wide tours alongside one of Australia’s biggest singer/songwriter names, Byron Bay native – now Melbourne-based – pop/folk songwriter, Domini Forster, gears up for the release of her very first full-length album in early 2017. Armed with a live show that highlights a melancholic sweetness; the great divide between positive and negative emotion, and; Forster’s multi-instrumental skills (with the main focus on guitar and ukulele), the last piece of the puzzle is now almost firmly secured. We caught up with Domini for a chat on all things musical in her past, and into her future, before she appears at Melting Pot’s Songwriters in the Round event at Cromwell Studios on Friday, December 9th.
Music has featured in Domini Forster’s life from a very early age. Being brought up through the Steiner School system in Byron Bay had her introduced to instruments and classroom music training through her formative school years, including a number of years where playing a stringed instrument was a compulsory part of her schooling - yet it wasn’t until Domini’s early teens where the passion exuded itself and transformed into the realm of a songwriter.
“I can’t put a finger on an exact moment, but I always loved singing, and performing and just being involved,” Domini says;
“At some point a boy taught me a few chords on guitar,” she recounts; “The first song I wrote was actually a song about breaking up with him!”
Forster candidly describes her writing style as her main cathartic process, and a way in which she deals with many of her emotions and thoughts. This is unsurprising when you take into account that many songwriters’ processes follow a similar path, however listening to some of Domini’s content and the way in which it is delivered, you’d be forgiven for thinking there was more at play.
She reaches an almost uncomfortable depth at times, clearly showcasing her full appreciation of the wide range of emotion which she intuiting. To come to terms with realising that something so deep and complex sounding having the most simplest of explanations or genesis, is sometimes the best possible result, and also provides a more direct connection with the artist as a whole.
I think this is a big part of what makes Domini Forster such a special artist, she is easily connectable. There are no smoke screens or hidden meanings, in a very much ‘what you see is what you get’ package.
“It’s a cathartic thing for me, and it just felt so satisfying, so there was never a question for me that I would ever stop doing that…”
Domini also reflects on her involvement with Melting Pot’s events over the years, particularly Songwriters in the Round as a reminder of her home area in Byron Bay:
“I grew up in a pretty community-centred place and have gone to a lot of house concerts in my time and that style of music, it just feels like the core of where music started for humans, that ‘round the campfire;’ sharing stories in song form… I love playing to people who want to listen.”
Her move to the big smoke culminated with releasing a small EP, 'Little Dreamer,' in 2013, a snippet of original material which is still available digitally through soundcloud.com/domini-forster.
Having had sprawling success throughout the past couple of years whilst on tour with Lior, Forster has fully capitalised on this exposure to a new and wide-ranging audience.
After discovering Domini at a songwriting competition in which he was the guest artist, Lior approached her to extend some on-stage opportunities which quickly transformed into a range of small regional tours with the multiple ARIA-nominated artist.
The swag of tours accepted Forster’s music so well that she was then given the support slot for Lior’s national tour to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his debut album, ‘Autumn Flow,’
“It was such an incredible record, and so many people have such a connection to it, so it was absolutely amazing,’ Domini reminisces.
She continues work on her debut album, ‘Raven,’ due to be released in March 2017. ‘Raven’ was recorded with the masterful Nick Huggins at his home studio in Point Lonsdale, and will prove to be Domini Forster’s biggest collection of original songs to date. Domini reflected on the making of ‘Raven’ as a difficult yet highly rewarding process;
“If any musician tells you that making an album is fun and easy… they’re bullshitting,” she explains; “But it was an amazing process, and I stressed about it, and put my heart and blood and sweat and tears into it…” something that you’ll no doubt be able to hear and experience upon its release next year.
The future journey for Domini Forster is yet to be mapped out, but if one were to interpret the direction, the feeling amongst her peers and immediate community is certainly that the only direction will be up.
Domini Forster appears with accompaniment from multi-instrumentalist and singer Phoebe Sanger this Friday night, December 9th at Melting Pot’s Songwriters in the Round – to be held at Cromwell Studios: 136A Cromwell St, Collingwood.
Written and compiled by Josh Forner for www.meltingpotonline.com
In the early hours of the morning - American time - on the 9th of November, 2016, society failed.
Society failed and entrusted the most powerful economy in the world to a man whose entire campaign was fixated on the idea of fear.
Fear of people who are 'different' to the lowest common denominator. Fear of people who do vow to change society's views and stretch our entrenched fabric. Yet that is the exact thing he has brainwashed his followers in to believing he will do, whilst he closes the opportunities for everyone else.
My deepest fear with Trump isn't what he might say - although that is a problem in itself; it isn't who he will segregate - although that is a problem in itself; it isn't about who will get left behind, who will be worse-off, which country he will antagonise - although all of these things are problems in themselves.
No, my biggest fear, is how his supporters will react when he can't do the things he has told them he is going to do.
There are many extreme policies in a proposed Donald Trump presidency, the most famous ones we know - building the wall between Mexico and the USA; ousting all Muslims and banning them from entering the USA; removing trade arrangements with China - and many of these policies were proven to be unpopular within his own party. So we wonder precisely just how much control he will have, given the division that exists within his own standing members.
And the followers, they aren't a group of people that I want to see get angry. The litany of uneducated, free-wheeling bigots that Trump spoke to with aplomb is outstanding. He has forced people out of political hibernation, who had never voted before and probably planned to never vote in their lives, because of the measured and diplomatic speak and tone of politicians.
Up steps Candidate Trump with his blatant racism, misogyny, and disregard for decency. A loose cannon ready to fire no matter where he's aiming. BOOM! Black America; BOOM! LGBTIQ; BOOM! Latinos; BOOM! Women.
The other fear that strikes me is with America itself. The fact that they couldn't bear the idea of a female president.
Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't endorse Hillary Clinton as a candidate in the first place, but it is who we had, and it is who was expected to lead the charge and come out victorious for the good of humanity on Wednesday.
America couldn't handle it.
They think they have voted for progress - they have voted for regress. A return to the height of fascism for the so called 'Greatest Place on Earth,' I tell you what, it was a much greater place on Tuesday evening.
The political thought bubble in the United States of America is flabbergasting to an outsider. It is a land that believes universal healthcare is the only step you need to take to be labelled as a communist nation, yet the right to owning a gun and being able to fire it at will is something that is sacrosanct and should never be removed from the rights of the people.
I would like to say that I am surprised, but quite frankly I am not. Having spent some of my formative years living in this country, and having close family still living there today, I am privy to exactly what the psyche of much of the population is, and how little they actually know how to think for themselves.
My fear is that America has voted for Progress and for a state of 'Revolution,' yet both progressiveness and revolution are dirty words on the right side of politics, and I'm sure the Republican Party would not stand for these types of labels.
Donald Trump's only interest in this election, in this position, in gaining the title of President, is entitlement for the entitled. The poor middle and upper-class white man is finally seeing things shift to an equilibrium (I said shift - there's a bloody long way before it gets anywhere near there!) after centuries of domination and having the world at his feet, and he feels he is entitled to his entitlement.
Trump will govern for Trump. He is a billionaire businessman with his own interests at heart. He's certainly not Richard Branson, whom if elected I would have no doubt would do a sterling job as he displays the qualities of compassion, empathy and resolve with his fellow man. Donald Trump identifies with a certain type of person, but he certainly doesn't feel for them, he doesn't care for them, and he certainly isn't going to defend them if it comes between him or the people.
It is clearly disparaging to me, and to many other decent folk, that such a horrible man could become so powerful. A man with no morality, the stability of a see-saw and the rationale of a fascist.
America has elected the face of capitalism to try and take it to capitalism.
Can anyone else see how this isn't going to work?
Society has failed. Failed to be a society. Failed to care about the lives of others and succeeded in confirming that being selfish is a human trait that no extent of evolution will ever absolve.
At the tender age of 27; it's fair to say that I've already lived a lifetime worth of disappointment; fear; sadness; disadvantage and the like, and the unfortunate thing is, that even when I don't expect it, it appears that more is just waiting right around the corner for me.
So, I've done what any person in similar circumstances might be expected to do: I've taken advantage of support & welfare services, but even I can admit that I've done it for far too long.
The problem, I guess, is I have never had a substantial period of time away from hardship to be able to let go of my dependence on taxpayer-funded support.
I'm not writing this piece because I am proud of that fact, I am writing it mostly for the purpose of self-reflection, and to give some insight into people who think I'm "no good" or a "bludger," typical of that 'stuck on Centrelink' stigma.
In the past, I used to feel that I deserved something for my hard work, my dedication and my suffering, but the truth is, deserving anything is something we're conditioned into believing, and generally, nothing could be further from the truth.
Variables exist, opportunities may be missed, mistakes may be made, undesirable outcomes occur and your mood and emotional state through all of these things will fluctuate greatly.
So, I'm no more deserving of a steady income and something to fill my time than anyone else. I'm no more deserving of a roof over my head than a man that has been homeless for a long period. I'm certainly no more deserving of a life full of everything you could wish for, than Cardinal George Pell (minus the child sexual abuse thing, I suppose!)
In an interesting conversation with a friend a few nights back, I identified that in the history of my life's ups and downs, and with all the battles I appear to face on an everyday basis (whether they be reality or negative mental concoctions), there exists somewhere deep, deep inside of me, the belief that I am destined for something better - and I do hate to use the term 'destiny' or 'fate,' but am finding it hard to pick another word there - for that simple believe that is held deep below anything on the surface that tells me how disappointing and cumbersome my life has been, is the key reason that I am still here today and that I still fight for myself.
I didn't ask for this life, nor was I given it, despite my thoughts in the past. Each moment, each decision and everything I've been through has led me to here. I realised that it was high time that I took ownership for my own reality, that I stopped blaming others; blaming society; blaming every external factor under the sun for it being 'outside of my control'.
I, whether I like it or not, put myself here - BROUGHT myself here: to a position where I am heavily broken; my life terrifyingly uncertain, and without a place to call home.
So, no - there is no way that I deserve 'the best' of anything; I do however continue to hope that something 'better' eventually comes along.
There's been a question rattling through my head of recent times, following the announcement of the women's national AFL competition, and the inaugural Women's Big Bash League in the past 12 months. That question is merely, why do we not pay as much attention to valid forms of female professional sport?
Curiously, that question extends to the premise that we need to pay women considerably less for following the path of a professional athlete than we do with their male counterparts.
Of course, if we're talking dollars and cents, the answer is that women's sport doesn't attract the same amount of sponsorship dollars as men's sport; but then again, there still lingers the question: why?
From the outside looking in, it appears that as a society that we completely devalue the realm of female professional sport. In a world where were are constantly playing catch-up on the dark ages where men brought home the bacon and women cooked it and cleaned up afterwards, it feels that the intricacies of the modern world just aren't being paid enough attention.
Professional sport for females is nothing new; Australia has posed long-term success in athletics, field hockey, swimming, golf and pro surfing just to name a few, but it is within the sports that are earmarked as 'male-dominated' or perceived as 'men only' where problems continue to present themselves.
First is the problem in the above perception. With this at play, it is no surprise that women aren't valued in these sports. They're (apparently) only for men, so women that play it mustn't be serious. Right? Wrong.
Absolutely anybody that pursues a career in professional sports: male; female; straight; gay; African; Asian; European - they are all serious about it - mark my words. It takes constant hard work and determination to gain success in an industry that is largely dog-eat-dog. Most athletes start with next to nothing, and have to build their profiles through endorsements and public appearances before they even begin to make a living out of their performances on the field - and yes, this is typical of MALE sportspeople; so let's take that difficulty and multiply it for women.
The main idea of writing this article is to pose the question; "Why do we not hold female sport in the same regard as male sport?"
It is not uncommon for a talented female athlete to be trained-up in multiple sports, and playing multiple sports, just so that they can make some sort of a living off their chosen career. The most recent example of such being professional cricketer and soccer player, Ellyse Perry, who has successfully represented her country in both sports at the highest level.
I can't see any valid reason why we should be treating the two any differently. Sportspeople are sportspeople. They undergo the same training, the same setbacks, the same grueling schedules to attain the best possible results for themselves, and - if relevant - their teams or their countries.
Luckily enough, in 2015, the Victorian Athletic League, Stawell Athletic Club and, major sponsor Woolworths, eventually agreed, and presented equal prize money for both the men's 120m Gift and Women's 120m Gift; the richest foot-races in Australia.
I feel a change is afoot, and may have been led by the aforementioned announcements of national professional leagues, however, until we are seeing women sportspeople getting equal recognition, admiration, coverage and - most importantly - equal PAY; then it is very hard to take these steps towards professional female sport in this country seriously.
If you've been out of work recently like me, and going about the usually demoralising task of reading the latest job ads, you've probably noticed a somewhat odd trend in the way jobs are being advertised of late.
It seems to me, that advertisers are now using 'click-bait' to get you into the ad itself, but then completely repelling your application by asking for unattainable years worth of experience for the position.
It might not be a new strategy, in actual fact, it is something that has been plaguing Gen Y applicants for quite some time, but it certainly seems to be a tactic which is in much more frequent use than ever before.
Countless times have I personally been lured by the attraction of an 'entry-level position' in the mental health, support & community services fields, only to either find that somewhere else within the application, I'm to have 3-5 years of similar experience to be considered for this 'entry level' role, or following the application, I am notified that I don't have the necessary experience to obtain an entry level position.
So, what's going on here? Is it an entry-level role or not? These advertisements are surely bordering on false advertisement, and somebody needs to start calling companies out on this!
It seems to me that the way of the world at this point in time, is that employers are expecting people to work unpaid internships, volunteer indefinitely to gain the said 'experience', or only motivated to hire internally.
How is this an acceptable way to get people into the workforce, and what indeed does it say about the value of modern education?
It doesn't just sit exclusively in my graduated field - I've also been thrown the "not enough experience" line for customer service and retail positions, of which I hold around 4-5 years experience in.
So, my question to prospective employers is, is this 'experience' thing just a complete and utter cop-out? Why, indeed are you advertising a job that says one thing, but is in fact another? And how are people expected to find work in this day and age, if nobody is willing to offer the opportunity of 'experience' that is required by so many of you?
For me, it sends me into a state of mass confusion, often ending in complete and utter surrender to the workforce and the application processes.
I know I'm not alone in these experiences, and I know that deep down it is rousing a feeling that I have perhaps wasted valuable time, resources and money in to an educational program, my Diploma, that now means absolutely nothing.
What I'd like to start seeing are some answers, because all I have experienced in the past 9 months are an endless cacophony of questions without answers.
I refuse to believe that I am unhirable, and that my qualifications mean nothing; but how else am I expected to think, given the messages this world is sending me?
Originally published on meltingpotonline.com
The first thing that strikes you about 24 year-old Elise Cabrét, is the songwriting and musical delivery that transcends her years. A mixture of darkness with a picturesque and heart-felt touch to her outstanding vocal stylings are evident right from the first uttered word, in the first song of her upcoming EP, The Wrong Side of Blue.
The record begins with an emotional rendition named The Calling, which outlines a ‘journey’ type of story-telling within Cabrét’s songs. A well-rounded and carefully held intonation to each almost spoken – yet sung word, plays particular attention immediately to the enveloping nature of the listening experience that Cabrét is so clearly drawing upon. The strongly slow, conversational presence of her sung Australian accent is a key sticking point throughout the record.
We’re positioned almost in a past world through the sunken imagery this EP possesses. To a place of falling brown leaves, the emergence of fog and a quiet, empty street with lone figures lurking; the green tinge of old-fashioned lamp posts around a well-worn walking path, devoid of anyone but Cabrét, who is inviting you to ensure that she does not need to complete this journey alone.
Track 2, Winter, further emanates Cabrét’s stunning vocal and it’s uniquely full and gut-wrenching delivery that easily had the hairs on my neck standing to attention. It’s more than this, though, as the simple structure and deliberately raw nature of the melodic backings really exaggerate the talented voice that exists within Cabrét.
She shows further variety as she turns to a completely solo experience in the EP’s title track, creating a deeper moment with simply just her voice and an expertly-held guitar picking pattern. She begins to show a side of herself so intimately brilliant and personally fragile, a commendation to any songwriter to so evidently convey. The ability to procure an unimaginably touching and such a close private experience into song is that which cannot be ignored; her delivery again possesses the listener to feel with Cabrét as, with each note and each word, the story grows with monumental steps.
We touch on a truer folk musical style in Track 4, That Old Violin, which explores the release of a man from the Old Pentridge Prison. We are introduced to the delicate inclusion of a reverb-heavy guitar providing the perfect underscore through Cabrét’s folky rhythm and somewhat haunting voice, which grows in range throughout much of this track, as we are introduced for the first time to her effortless highs.
Furthering the private touch of her song subject, she explores her personal experience with a popular online dating app through Meeting With a Stranger, which propagates a common theme of broken trust, FOMO and a ongoing state of emotional confusion, which wraps itself around the tantalising narrative and solidifies itself in the song’s ending.
We’re then brought to Better Somehow, a song which returns us to the graceful music & conversational singing double-act from the beginning of the album – a light and energy which flutters around inside the listener’s chest – due to Cabrét’s innate ability to position the charge of emotion behind each song directly into you with relative ease.
To some, this EP may pose a challenge due to its confrontational song subjects coupled with the ‘releasing’ tone of Cabrét’s conveyance which transposes the thoughts and feelings so effortlessly across the listening sphere. The slow, heartfelt and haunting characteristics, however, draw a clear purpose for the above. The Wrong Side of Blue is not intended a feel-good rendition, but moreso the evidential cascade of feeling, connection and trust which is born about by only the most especially talented of songwriters.
Let this debut offering from Elise Cabrét completely mystify you and drag you away from the real; illuminating a dark place that not only exists within the realm of this songwriter, but essentially in us all – a place that perhaps you had no notion of before hearing this record. Something very special, that deserves to be listened to, with attention, and with every sense of the body.
The Wrong Side of Blue is available for pre-order via Elise’s bandcamp page.
You can catch her launching the EP live at:
Friday 11 December – LYREBIRD LOUNGE – 61 Glen Eira Rd, Ripponlea (Free Entry)
Wednesday 16 December – SOME VELVET MORNING – 123 Queens Pde, Clifton Hill (Free Entry)
The most common misconception in modern psychology is that negative thoughts, negative sensations and negative memories are the direct cause of pain, and therefore we need to remove them before they get worse.
Nothing could be further from the truth. You would have noticed in my previous blogs that I concentrate on an angle of normalising human behaviour and emotion. This angle continues through this particular article, as we explore the normality of thoughts through the theories associated with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and various psychosocial rehabilitation models.
Thoughts, memories and sensations will always be there. Recent psychological treatment has however encouraged sufferers to remove, eliminate or distract from these thoughts. I don't need to tell you that this method doesn't particularly work in the long-term; the troublesome thoughts and feelings always come back eventually, and with a vengeance.
"So, where is the pain coming from, if not from these very things?" - a good and valid question at this stage of the article. As I have also focused on in previous blogs, perception is half the battle when you're facing something undesirable, or in a time of struggle.
The pain is merely associated with your thoughts by the way you perceive them, or allow them to infiltrate your conscious. This is called "fusion"; fusion with your thoughts makes them appear as if your thoughts and memories are the truth, are gospel, are a driving force and a master. The truth of the matter is, however, that thoughts and memories are only thoughts and memories.
They had a purpose in the time of primitive man; negative or harmful memories would be utlised to better inform us in the future of danger and also better evolve our decision making processes in light of this. Analytical thought also evolved throughout this process. Unfortunately, in the modern world, our minds are bombarded with information on a constant basis. The rate at which analytical thinking occurs within our skulls these days is almost incomprehensible. This is both a gift - given the sensational and incredible power possessed by the human mind - and also; a curse - given the over-analysis and constant worry of "fitting in" to our "tribe," as is one of our leftover attributes from primitive times.
Given our minds have evolved this greatly over - in evolutionary terms - a very short period of time, we should also evolve our thinking and perceptions in regards to what we experience on a day-to-day basis.
Thoughts and memories are ever-present. The mind has a whole system devoted to them, and the idea of 'removing' negative thoughts is one which should be met with a grain of salt. The only way to 'remove' thoughts and memories is through some sort of brain damage or a major neurolinguistic shift.
It is becoming a much more accepted premise to learn to live and accept our thoughts and memories as thoughts and memories, rather than allowing them to be implicit to our reception of emotional pain and anguish.
Pain comes from analysing our thoughts, and from believing each and every part of them. Fusing to their voices when they tell you that you can't complete a specific task, that you're going to die alone, that nobody loves you or that you'll never be a success. Getting us down is sitting with these thoughts, sinking into them and absorbing them as fact.
Alongside this is when our memories take hold of our daily life. Many a good person has been stuck residing in the past and struggling with memories which cripple them. I'm no exception, and I'm betting you aren't, either. Memories have an innate ability to exacerbate our worry, stress and fear, all side-effect emotions to the discomfort the memories cause. Fusing with your memories has the same result as fusing with your thoughts. You're buying into a story which is a recount of an event, and may not be an accurate representation of the truth.
The ACT model and Psychosocial Rehabilitation models owe a lot of their effectiveness to mindfulness techniques. I bring this up because the next step in accepting thoughts and memories is the difficult task of 'letting them be'.
As I mentioned, thoughts, memories and their consequential sensations are ever-present. You are going to have hundreds, if not thousands, each day for the rest of your time on Earth. So why not learn to live with them, rather than let them affect you, your judgement and your overall life? Letting thoughts and memories come and go as they please and reside in your mind or in your body is the first step into relinquishing their power over you.
It is a very real struggle and I'm sure there's some of you reading this that strongly believe that this is unachievable; that just because those thoughts are ever-present means that they'll never be able to lose their power. But if you dig deep and truly immerse yourself in the idea that thoughts are not your boss, merely by-products of your existence, and something we don't need to savour or hold on to the crux of, then you may just begin to see things change, and to see results in how you perceive your thoughts and begin to see distance between actual reality and your mind's perceived reality.
Note that I haven't asked you to challenge or dismiss any of these thoughts, as discussed those methods aren't the cornerstone of what we are trying to achieve here. The action we need to take here is being able to sit with the stories held in our mind, and see them for what they really are: stories - stories exist in our past, and perhaps in our future - but reality exists only in our present, and we need our minds clear to process and function in our present, not to process and function on the undesired outcomes of our past; the negative realities we have already lived, or; even the wishes and hopes for the future.
Using the skills I hope you have developed from my previous blogs, 'Riding the Waves of Emotion,' 'How to Measure Success,' and; 'Reconnecting Your Values System' you should now be able to identify what is important to you, how you measure it against yourself and not against others (a common theme for negative thought patterns), when and how you are able to process the emotions that you struggle with and now, how to begin a process of "defusion" from your thoughts, a concept with which I will explore further in my next piece.
Remember: it is normal to have thoughts, particularly negative thoughts. Research suggests that up to 80% of all human thoughts have negative roots or elements to them; it's also normal for us to allow thoughts to dictate our everyday selves - but you can do something to change it! You hold the power now!
As always, if you have any ideas, feedback or ways I could improve my delivery of information, please let me know via the comments. I'll respond to everyone - even the haters, as we've seen before.
Wishing you all the luck in your new found clear-headedness.
This week marks National Mental Health Awareness Week in Australia, and it comes at a particularly opportune time, given the recent and very national news of AFL star Lance Franklin’s ongoing illness and need to step away from the game.
It is unfortunate, for those such as I who advocate for the equal treatment and citizenship of those diagnosed with a mental illness, that it takes a person with the fame and ilk of Franklin to re-start a public awareness campaign that should probably be an ongoing matter.
The fact of the matter is, that even though Australians are a very accepting bunch, and we have come leaps and bounds in the treatment and care of those diagnosed with a mental illness, we are still at a cultural crossroads where the provision of care for these people is still considered to be a ‘weakness’; particularly for men looking in, and for non-sufferers who have never had to encounter a close loved one or indeed themselves becoming stifled by a diagnosis.
And it is stifling: whilst there are always stories of recovery and remarkable histories of success from people who have carried a diagnosis, the common theme is that, at least in the interim stage, the diagnosis and the emotion it carries – internal and external to the illness – is a road block.
That said, nothing to do with mental illness is ever a linear process, neither is the interrelation between a triggering life event, stress at work, or financial distress, which may often be labelled as the starting point. That isn’t always the case – mental illness does not discriminate, and it usually does not care what is going on in your life at that particular time, and a lot of the time, people carry it around for a long, long time before they even seek assistance from a professional, which can prolong the stifling affect and no doubt cause further problems without treatment.
So, we come back to Franklin: a man at the top of his game; the highest-paid athlete to play AFL professionally in the history of the game; a well-respected champion player whose reputation for being a match winner is unsurpassed in this day and age, a man who you would quite frankly think would be feeling like ‘King of the World’. Alas, he has his own battle with mental illness. Kept from the public for who knows how long. We don’t need to know – of course – it’s a personal plight, but who is to say he hasn’t been holding this secret for a long time. Moreover, the point is that this is a guy who you’d least expect to ever suffer from something like depression.
Those of you who have been following my blog for a while will remember the article I wrote in response to the untimely passing of Robin Williams to suicide; yet another man who you would envisage having no reason to be sad or to suffer – he was a man who the world was absolutely in love with, but with which the feeling was not mutual.
It certainly brings to mind that old adage, that ‘money can’t buy happiness;’ which becomes particularly important, as there are still many people around who think that it can. Money is one piece of a very large and complex puzzle that is your life, and where it may improve things on the outside, if you’re at war with yourself on the inside, none of that ever seeps through to the core.
Nobody is to blame for contracting a mental illness: not the person themselves; not their family or friends; not their boss or their doctor. There is no blame for being debilitated by these things. They are what they are and that’s why weeks like this week exist, so that we can properly acknowledge how these things affect people’s everyday lives and how we can continue moving forward on dispelling the rumours and myths that surround each and every diagnosis.
As I mentioned, as a nation we are keen to take steps in the right direction. There are plenty of people just like me advocating for better care provisions and better citizenship for people with a mental illness. Due to my own experiences, I tend to avoid referring to them as ‘sufferers’ or ‘patients’ or ‘victims:’ these types of words devalue an individual further, and the basic and most underlying principal of mental health care is empowerment, independence and living a life free from labels, stigma and discrimination.
The advocates are only one part of the voice of those with a mental illness, the advocates only get to push things but the decisions lie in the hands of others, perhaps people who have never been touched by the dark world that exists around a mental illness, perhaps people who have never encountered it closely.
Mental Health is a national priority, as we race towards the year 2020, when the World Health Organisation has pinpointed that depression & other categories of major mental illness will become the most debilitating health condition on the planet, we need action. Speaking about it isn’t quite enough for me to classify as ‘action’. There need to be plans, social enterprise start-ups and regular policy and legislative change to enhance and prosper the lives of those with a mental illness.
I do hope that following this National Mental Health Awareness Week that we can keep this discussion at the forefront of the national agenda. It can’t keep being the role of the advocates and the start-ups to facilitate a change in culture. This sort of widespread action needs to start from the top, a call to the politicians, to the leaders of big business and to those in the public eye: be ready to be a trailblazer, tackle the finer points of our epidemic. Offer and show your support for our support.
The time for change is now – the time to offer the same level of care and respect is now, for nobody can predict when or who this rapidly growing cluster of illnesses is going to strike: your brother, your mother, your best friend, your work colleagues, or even you.