Riding the wave of mental health

Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy and the impact on family, friends and the community is profound. Luke Conners knows this pain all too well and is now leading the charge for change.

Talk2mebro was created by Kristy Hajjar and Jack Brown after they lost their loved one to mental illness. Luke had also been impacted by this same death when another of his mates took his own life in 2018.

“The losses hit me hard and I knew something had to be done,” Luke said.

Luke then joined the Talk2mebro movement, with the goal to reduce the number of suicides in Australia.

Through early intervention, Talk2mebro aims to create societal change by reducing the stigma around mental health challenges; it encourages men and women to feel more comfortable talking about their hardships.

By engaging the expertise of psychologists and counsellors, Jack and his friends have created programs which empower men to take control of their mental health and wellbeing.

Kristy, Luke and Jack travel to schools, workplaces, and communities across Australia to facilitate: workshops, mental health first aid sessions, retreats and a unique Talk2mebro program to help encourage people to support each other on an emotional level.

The team recently spoke to Warners Bay parishioners about the initiative and ways they can identify, discuss and empower people in their lives that may be struggling.

“The cornerstone of the Church is about supporting one another and working together to help those who may be fighting a battle, no matter the circumstances,” said Father Greg Barker, Parish Priest of Boolaroo, Warners Bay and Booragul.

“No human was intended to walk alone, and it’s through work like Talk2mebro that we see the significance and necessity in opening up on more personal emotional issues and having real conversations about them… especially when things aren’t going well.”

The Talk2mebro group also hosts free community beach sessions every second Friday at Dixon Park (men) and Merewether (women), which includes: breath work, a swim, chat, ice-bath, and a free coffee.

“It isn’t just for men, it’s for everyone. We want to create a shared space where people can feel safe, vulnerable, and unashamedly themselves. We need to bring awareness to the conversations around mental health, for men and women,” Luke said.

Luke Lord, regular Talk2mebro participant-turned-facilitator, credits the group for reigniting his passion for helping people after he was forced to close his gym at the start of 2023.

“Talk2mebro is forming such a strong community. Seeing people in that community feel they can be vulnerable, guys opening up and other guys listening and being that ear for people, that’s what I love and it lights me up,” Mr Lord said.

Since 2018, Talk2mebro has spoken to 55,000 people face-to-face, interacted with more than two million people on social media and provided a holistic approach to mental health and wellbeing.

While the impact of organisations like Talk2mebro is clear, there are still roadblocks across Australia for those who need access to support services.

Psychologist Kelly Pavan is the Counselling and Clinical Services Manager at The Rosewood Centre. She believes accessibility, affordability, and stigma around mental health are key barriers for people struggling to receive the help they might need.

“One of the key reasons is that good longer term quality mental health care is expensive. Cuts to Medicare subsidised therapy during a cost-of living crisis (which subsidises only around half the cost of a session, and now the number of sessions available have been halved), has made therapy inaccessible to the people who need it the most,” Kelly said.

“Across the sector we often see funding loaded towards early intervention services, which is incredibly valuable because prevention is obviously better than cure. However, we would really like to see additional funding and support directed at the pointy end of the risk spectrum– where people are not at risk enough to be in hospital, but too much risk for early intervention or mild-moderate services.”

Reflecting on the significance of the Talk2mebro beach sessions, Luke had some reassuring advice for anyone experiencing mental health challenges.

“Like the waves in the ocean - the ups and the downs - you can be in a down, but you’ll come out the other side. Through work and getting support and reaching out, the lows become easier and easier.”

Talk2mebro runs free community sessions every second Friday. For more information visit www. talk2mebro.org.au

For more information on the Rosewood Centre visit rosewoodcentre.com.au or call 1800 613 155.

If you or someone you know needs support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36.

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