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.
Originally published by Daniel Wilcox, www.theroar.com.au on Jan 2, 2016.
Being an umpire or referee in any sport is a tough, and often thankless job. You are constantly assessed and criticised by the vast majority of people that are watching, even if the viewer has little or no idea of what is happening with the game.
These people look at one thing: free kicks. Namely, free kicks that they disagree with, usually for the reason that it went against their team.
On the other end, you often have a coach or assessor at the ground, whose job it is to evaluate your performance. These people look at everything you do; positioning, game control, body language, communication.
There is a whole side to officiating a game that most people only notice when something goes really wrong.
Like a footy club, umpires work as a team. From a junior game with two field umpires, right up to a full panel of 11 umpires (three field, four boundary, two goal, two emergency), everyone works together on the day to minimise the incorrect calls. It is not uncommon to hear another umpire yell “nice bounce” or “good throw” after good execution in a game. Alongside positioning, teamwork is one of the major factors affecting how many incorrect decisions are made in a game.
During the week, just like a footy club, umpires train together. Twice a week, the umpires from the local area will go through drills to improve their fitness and skills.
Also like a club, sometimes everyone will train together, whether you are state league level, or about to do your first Under-12s game as a teenager. Other times, people train separately, so that the session is at a pace that will suit everyone.
The general football population expects umpires to be perfect. On the one hand, I see this as a compliment; that perfection is within reach. If the level of officiating was consistently lower than the expected level, then expectations would be altered to reflect this. However, the expectation is still that there will be so few mistakes in a game, that those mistakes can be individually discussed (and often criticised).
There is a saying around the umpiring world: “The day you have a perfect game is the day you retire.” In other words, there is always room to improve.
But umpires are only human. In one game, a field umpire will make many thousand decisions (or non-decisions), all in real time, with less than a second to process each one. Then you have the distractions: the crowd, the weather, players, runners, trainers, all in the same space as you. All it takes for one of these people to obstruct your view of a contest is to run past at the wrong time. In the blink of an eye, you may have ‘missed’ something, even though you are in perfect position.
Spectators often think they have a free pass when talking about umpires. They believe that it is their ‘right’ to use abusive language, and insult the umpire as a person because of what they do.
In a game I officiated earlier this year, a player going for the ball was crunched in a big (but legal) hip-and-shoulder from a much larger opponent. The opponent who laid the hit was very sportsmanlike, checked that the injured player was okay, and signalled to the bench when the answer was no. The player was helped from the field by his team’s trainers, and the game continued.
A few minutes later, at the three-quarter-time break, the injured player’s mother stormed out onto the field (into the area that is set aside for only umpires), swearing at us, calling us incompetent, and demanding that the player who laid the bump be reported and sent off the field.
A polite explanation of our course of action was met with increased abuse from the woman, who had to be taken away by some of her son’s teammates to settle down.
Another example, and one that I am less proud of, was from earlier in my career as an umpire. A young field umpire was just starting out, and learning very quickly. A group of us were in the stands to provide some support to the umpire (a common occurrence), when again, a player’s mother was complaining about every ‘mistake’ that the umpire made, even though most of the complaints were completely baseless.
A few of the less tolerant in the group (including the young umpire’s brother) quickly figured out who the lady’s son was, moved directly behind her, and started to make comments every time he missed a kick or dropped a mark. The mother didn’t take long to get annoyed at the complaints about her son, and asked why they were singling out her son like that. When they pointed out that she had been doing the same to one of their friends, her response was, “But he’s an umpire.”
After a few minutes to calm down, both groups apologised to each other.
But what happens if you don’t have a group of semi-confrontational people willing to stand up against that ingrained abuse? A lot of spectators don’t even realise what they are saying about the umpire, and some believe that because they are talking about an umpire, they can say what they want.
A shift away from the abuse of officials at higher levels is slowly filtering down through competitions, but there needs to be more people pushing this message right through to the grass-roots level, as that is breeding ground not just for players, but the next generation of officials as well.
Robert Murphy has been a vocal proponent of showing umpires more respect, and a favourite quote of his sticks with me for every game of sport that I watch, officiate, spectate, or am involved in any capacity:
“For anyone going to the footy this week, at any level, raise a glass to the umps. Footy needs them.”
In closing, I have a simple request: imagine the umpire or referee out there giving up their time to run the game is your son, daughter, brother, sister, best friend or teammate. If you wouldn’t say what you are thinking to them, why should someone else have to cop it, just because ‘they are an umpire’?
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?
It's one of the hardest feelings to shake, yet one of the ones we desperately want to avoid. Loneliness has a deep-seeded connection to the human being.
From our heritage as pack animals to our "happily ever after" driven social cognition, loneliness has been a constant and long struggle through human existence and evolution.
So, how do you shake it? Well, if I had the answers, I'd probably experience the feeling a lot less than I do right now. I think that very much, an individualistic approach has to be taken to your own experience of loneliness.
What works or doesn't work for you may not necessarily be true for others. Take a couple of examples from my own life:
When the battle with loneliness sets in, things are amplified for me. I notice couples more; I see how happy they are together; a blinding rage begins to take form inside me for not having that level of companionship that I so deeply desire, so I tend to isolate myself until the feelings are not strong enough to affect me.
Another example is, to combat lonely feelings, I have often had a pet by my side. From ages 12 - 23 we had a family dog whom I would share most my daily experiences with. I took her busking and shared my new songs with her as she intently listened, and begged for more when I stopped playing. I'd tell her things that I told nobody else, and even though she was a dog, completely incapable of verbally communicating back, she felt my feelings, my emotions and always reacted accordingly.
A few years back I got myself a puppy - much for reasons described above, loneliness had crept into my life and become a large part of who I was, and I didn't want that. The idea of the dog is not to cure the feeling or prevent it from ever occurring, but to make the bad times when it takes hold that little bit more bearable.
Some people, however, would find themselves in similar situations - out and about noticing couples - and use this to spring hope in the fact that there is somebody out there for everyone, and that they won't be lonely forever; similarly, some people don't see the benefit in having the responsibility of a pet under their care, and that's totally acceptable.
The key thing with combating loneliness is like any other emotion the troubles you. It has its time and place, and you need to allow it that time and place and minimise the effect that it has on you. This can only happen over time, and I am certainly the first to say it is not a process I have mastered with this particular feeling and group of thoughts!
Also, it is knowing your triggers: what amplifies this emotion? Is it seeing couples everywhere when you feel alone? Is it people talking about their own partners? What is the point at which loneliness takes over your consciousness and consumes your thoughts? This is the point at which these strategies must come into play.
Identify the 'point of no return' and reduce its pressure and presence in your every day functioning.
I would say, through my own experience, that loneliness is the absolute toughest feeling to master. Through my journey, I have been successfully able to apply and adapt the principles of ACT through a number of varying obstacles, emotions, traits, thoughts and experiences; yet loneliness still troubles me and still takes a hold of me at most of the times that it appears.
Unfortunately, I'm unable to eliminate the social cues that I react to or lessen the desire to be in an amorous and harmonious partnership - however, I can control these reactions and see them for what they really are, and I can have acceptance for these thoughts (usually negative or self-deprecating) and see them for what they really are.
Yes, I may be 'alone', but are all the circumstances in my control? Of course not. I've played the dating game, I've had successful and unsuccessful relationships in the past and I've tried too hard and I've just been me. It hasn't yet worked, and so be it, for me, the journey has just begun...
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)
After a successful session at Tonyk on High in October, Live Music returns to Friday night with 3 of Melbourne's most intriguing singer/songwriters taking the stage.
It will all start around 7 PM with dinner options available and a selection of drinks at bar prices. Come along and join the fun, as we've got your Tonyk on this Melbourne Friday night!
JOE FORRESTER returns from the wilderness, as recording continues for his upcoming album. Forrester is no stranger to Melbourne's stages, but has spent the last few years in hibernation, waiting for the right time to impress with his new tunes. He makes his long-awaited return at Tonyk.
JOSH FORNER continues to expand his already impressive repertoire. Also in the middle of compiling studio album number 2, Forner connects his live audience through words his words and the passion with which he delivers each song. Mixing his well-known acoustic style with vibrant and etherial electric guitar in a solo setting, his live show continues to make considerable leaps.
CIARAN BOYLE is a native of Ireland and has been a regular in Melbourne's open mic scene for quite some time. Boyle has also been well sought after in the Irish Pub circuit with his uniquely raspy yet crisp vocal style and original tunes to get lost in, Ciaran Boyle is a performer that must be on your must-see list for 2015!
I'd like to take this opportunity to announce the launch of my concept into sustainable employment for people with a mental illness diagnosis in Australia.
The concept is called the 'Sustainable Employment Mentoring Initiative,' or; SEMI for short. The Sustainable Employment Mentoring Initiative (SEMI) is a concept to fill an identified service gap among people diagnosed with a mental illness.
Brainchild of Peer Support and Mental Health advocate, Josh Forner, SEMI hopes to provide ongoing support to employees and employers alike through a mentoring, coaching and informal counseling approach within the workplace.
Often, people diagnosed with a Mental Illness find themselves unemployed or underemployed and on Centrelink benefits, and are consequently pushed through the Job Services system, where they are provided with assistance in finding employment.
The support and assistance once that employment is secured, however, seems to fall away, and this is where SEMI wishes to become involved.
SEMI will provide businesses with the support they need for employers to better understand the needs of people they employ with a mental illness, and also provide ongoing in-house support for the employee; giving them an opportunity to air out any issues and have a safe and knowledgeable contact - external to their workplace structure - to confide in.
SEMI will provide mentoring assistance to employees in their new positions, as well as coaching and information to employers on both the challenges and benefits of employing people diagnosed with a mental illness.
SEMI believes in an idea of "safe disclosure" within the workplace, and wishes to promote this ideal so that employees and employers alike can move on with the important things in their day-to-day operations, whilst SEMI provides an informed approach to support and care within the workplace.
At this point in time, SEMI is still only a concept, and I am certainly looking for any support and assistance in way of resources, ideas, strategy or funding. The time was right to launch this project, and give it a face and a purpose.
To keep updated on SEMI, please visit and 'Like' the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/semiaus/
Thank you for your support!
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.
Life is a process. Like links in a chain, it only takes one fault for things to fall apart. For many people, I'm sure that they find this to be true, that if there's a central part of their life that they aren't in control of, then most of the other things can't co-exist.
This isn't a surprising or new concept, as it is basic human psychology. As humans we have a range of needs, and generally they are of a linear relationship, that one set of needs should be satisfied before the next can be and so on.
However, what if you focused more in the inter-relation between needs and areas of your life that you find important, and shifted the 'central part' of your life, as we mentioned earlier, elsewhere?
Getting caught up in negativity and when things are going wrong is one of the biggest challenges we have to face as we go throughout our lives. As humans have developed into a species, our minds have designed in-built warning systems which are highly tuned to sense danger, which in the modern world can be clearly drawn on from any wealth of negative experiences.
The loss of a job, house, death of a loved one, financial burden; all things that - without much surprise - can significantly capitulate a person, depending on how they react.
We spend less time putting things in focus which are important to us than we do reacting to the bad things that affect us - the double-edged sword here, is that our values continue to get further and further out of focus, and out of reach of fulfillment, that we begin to feel 'empty' and that something is 'missing', which in most cases it actually is.
Take some time over the next week to think about what you truly value and require in your life to make you tick, and think about just how close - or far away you are - from fulfilling a value goal in that area.
Recently, and albeit for most of my life, I've felt lonely, in need of companionship; so when I last felt that this part of my life was beginning to slip out of focus, I decided to get myself a puppy - now a puppy is a big responsibility, and it also meant that I had a lot of growing up to do in a short period of time - but it worked for me, and now I have the constant and loving companionship, with the air of responsibility and care that I had been lacking - even for myself!
The fulfilling of one value can often lead to fulfillment or progress in another, so if you're feeling stuck, or like something is holding you back; empty or that there's a gap in your life, step back and identify what is most important to you, and think about how much you dedicate to that area of your life. Reconnect with the inner "YOU".
But first, you must ask yourself permission to reconnect with inner you, because some people just aren't ready for what it might tell them.