The difference between how much we say we care and how much we show it is the change the world desperately needs, and I am so driven by showing people the impact we can all make with the 1440 minutes we have in a day.
Every 60 seconds, somewhere around the world, we lose someone to suicide. And the time it takes for us to lose someone is the same time it takes for us - as brothers, sisters, parents or friends - to reach out and positively affect the people in our lives. It's those precious seconds that can make all the difference in reaching out to help someone in need: to let them know that they are important, they are appreciated and that they are loved.
Call a mate.
That loss of life every 60 seconnds could be a continent away, a country away, a street away or potentially under your own roof. Unfortunately for me, it's been a frequent occurance in my life dating back to the age of twelve. But in order for me to express my passion for this cause, let me first paint a picture of why.
On Thursday 1 December 2016, I sat fourteen rows up towards the back on the right-hand side, five chairs in, in an auditorium full of one-thousand strong people who were visibly upset, broken and a mess; shadows of the people they normally were. It was the funeral of the seventh mate I had lost to suicide by the age of twenty-five - something that I consider and truly believe is so preventable, when suicide is associated with mental ill health. That image is one that flicks back and forth through my head every single day - of the faces of friends and families left behind - and it breaks my heart.
It's not something that rocked me for a day, for six months or for a couple of years. It's something that sits with me and fuels my passion for positive and everlasting change every single day. That day, taught me two very important things. Firstly, the devastation I saw on the faces of those around me was a wake up call that I needed to get the help and treatment I desperately required. But more importantly, it was the day that I said "enough is enough".
I would no longer wait around, knowing that I had something to give back, experiences that could potentially help others. I'd had a belief system for years, one that screamed 'Why me?' and 'This isn't fair!' It was a feeling of entitlement that life owed me something, and that I had been dealt a poor hand. I'd been shut off to the world and numb to every opportunity in front of me for the best part of eight years.
The secret to change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new. I rewired the story in my mind from one of torture to one of acknowledging and giving credit to all the good things that had happened to me as a result of the pain, trauma and grief I'd been through, and one of belief that I could in fact channel what I'd seen and felt, for the betterment of someone else.
Mental illness and the loss of mates has been my greatest teacher. The loss of friends has birthed a love for people, and a level of compassion and empathy that I otherwise wouldn't have known. It has led me to this moment in time and to the exact seat I sit in. It has given me the ability to be in a position to give back, to help change the conversation and the culture of mental health and resilience. To show the young champions of tomorrow the strength of who they are, based on their own values and uniqueness, combined with the strength in others, and to help people right across the world to flex the muscles developed by their emotional struggles.
Everyday my eyes open. I'm one of the lucky ones - to still be here, to be able to tell stories of hope, healing and recovery. It was my own rediscovery of hope visible in the kindness of others who showed me that if they could live healthy and productive lives, even after loss or diagnosis, then I could too. They inspired me to find my strength within.
So here are my lessons for you:
● Be content with being confused: it’s where you begin to learn new things.
● Be broken: it’s where you heal stronger.
● Be frustrated: it’s where deliberate actions happen.
● Be sad: because if you are brave enough, you will hear your heart through it.
● Be angry: it will help you work out what to stay away from.
● Be overwhelmed: it’s where you will find out what’s important.
I am learning to be okay with whatever happens to me, however it happens to me, and wherever I am right now. But no more hiding from it. There are no burdens in my life, only blessings and lessons. I can't create the magic for the world that it needs if my hands are still full of yesterdays junk.
Reaching out to a mate who's struggling can he hard, but as difficult as that may seem, call them. You just don't know how important that chat might be.