Australia’s first Bachelorette pulls no punches when describing her relationship with mental health.
“I crashed as a human being and had to go and see a psychologist,” shares Home & Away star Sam Frost at the first Torrens University Speaker Series 2020 event – focussed on Health and Wellness.
“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my whole entire life,” she confirms in a wide-ranging conversation with personal trainer Steve ‘Commando’ Willis, Program Director of our Counselling and Community Service Lisa Walsh, and moderator Tim Gilbert.
Together they explore how social media has contributed to the rise in mental health issues, as well as coping methods, support services and of course the impact of COVID-19 on our collective mental health.
“People are finding it hard to tolerate their own distress,” explains Lisa Walsh, bringing a sharp focus to how the pandemic is affecting many of us. The good news is, we can all do something about that.
Here’s five ideas from Speaker Series – Health and Wellness that you can action personally to improve your own mental and physical wellbeing.
Change is challenging – but you can find balance
Steve Willis experienced a massive life change when he became the Commando on top rating Australian TV show The Biggest Loser in 2007, shortly after leaving the military.
“In the military it’s kind of unspoken, it’s all action, it’s all about the job. And, even the compartmentalisation, within that – you don’t talk with other guys about certain things,” recalls Mr Willis.
Speaking on national television and being recognised by strangers was an extreme change, but Mr Willis knows others who’ve struggled with more regular career changes.
“I see a lot of that coming out of the veteran space with guys who I’ve served with in the military, who were amazing soldiers but outside of the military, who are they? They just go to water, they fall apart. I think a lot of that is because they’ve tried to maintain this facade or keep the body armour on about what it means to be a man.”
Mr Willis practices and recommends mindfulness and meditation to arrive at a place of acceptance.
“Encourage the body and the mind to just relax and be, and not carry that tension,” recommends Mr Willis.
Recognise that you’re not alone
Reminding us that we’re never alone in our struggles, Mr Willis paraphrases former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens from his book Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life.
“Pain, suffering and fear is real, but it’s not unique.”
It’s a point confirmed by Sam Frost who proactively uses her profile to encourage better mental health practices.
“I’m pretty transparent with my mental health struggles. Anytime I’ve been transparent and told my story truthfully, sure enough, I’m inundated with people that have felt exactly the same way,” shares Ms Frost.
Of course, you don’t have to broadcast your feelings on social media to find that connection.
“The greatest thing you can ever do for yourself is to reach out to a friend and say, you know what I’m not doing okay. And I can almost guarantee you they’ll say, you know what? I’ve been struggling too. It’s just opening up that conversation and realising you’re not alone,” assures Ms Frost.
If you not sure how to start, teacher and psychologist Lisa Walsh says just be yourself.
“The more honest and authentic we are, the more success we achieve, but also the more things are transparent and it’s congruent. It’s easy because you’re just being yourself.”
As the philosopher Rumi said, “either seem as you are or be as you seem.”
Small wins can lead to great victories
You might be surprised to hear that it doesn’t take something big to impact mental health.
“I worked in a psychiatric hospital and often the straw that broke the camel’s back wasn’t a huge event. If we have enough triggers in a short succession of time, we can really get beaten down,” reflects Ms Walsh.
The good news is that the same thing works in reverse. When it comes to improving mental health, small wins lead to great victories.
“I work with clients a lot around what can you do less of and what can you do more of? So, shelving the judgment and saying, what’s a little micro-step that you could take. It might be a better food choice or limiting your online shopping.”
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be signing up for a gym class, but it can be deciding that I can go for a walk, I can get out in nature. We know the healing power of nature – to ground ourselves in nature and to observe nature is its own therapy in itself,” explains Ms Walsh.
We need to yarn more
Warren Roberts founded Yarn Australia to build intentional relationships between Australia’s First Peoples and non-Aboriginal Australians through storytelling. Mr Roberts tells Speakers Series – Health and Wellness that we all benefit from communication.
“The biggest thing that our elders always talk about is that if we stop talking, we create more problems. So, let’s own this opportunity and talk together and build a relational culture and move towards the future of what Australia could be,” urges Mr Roberts.
“What I find is when I work with non-Aboriginal people, they don’t know how to have that yarn. I say, how long does it take for you to talk about the football? Two to three minutes? If we can be intentional and talk about your story in two to three minutes, then things are possible.”
Mr Roberts comments resonate with the other speakers on the panel who admit their own shortcomings with communication. In fact, for Sam Frost, communication has been a silver lining from the pandemic.
“The greatest moments I’ve had during COVID is sitting on my floor with my housemate and we’ll just be talking and talking. Having really interesting conversations. It’s so important and it’s really refreshing. Because you got so busy going out or, catching up for coffee or talking about dumb boys. But now we’re going back to basics,” reflects Ms Frost.
Trust and empower – young people have got this
Samantha Callender is a co-founder of One Eighty – youth mental health by young people, for young people. The foundation empowers young people to make small but meaningful contributions to the prevention of youth suicide. Ms Callender explains to the panel that they wanted to create a safe space for young people to feel supported and capable of creating change.
“One of the primary programs that we operate is called Open Up, and it’s a peer support group. It’s really about offering the space for young people to come together and ask each other questions,” explains Ms Callendar.
As a provisional psychologist completing her masters and running a youth mental health organisation, Ms Callendar admits that it’s difficult to balance health and wellness. However, she sums up the key message of this Speaker Series event with her COVID-19 inspired reflection.
“I think it’s really important for me to be able to acknowledge personally, that I don’t have to have all the answers for myself all of the time and that I too can reach out and ask for help if that’s what I need.”
Learn how to tackle mental health
For more insights into improving and navigating mental and physical wellbeing, watch the full conversation of Speaker Series – Health and Wellness.
To take a more active role on improving the health and wellness of others, check out the full range of Health courses and degrees at Torrens University.
You can take the first step today, for free, with the online short course Understanding Depression: Learning From Lived Experience. Produced by Torrens University in partnership with Beyond Blue, this free course is open to anyone with a personal or professional interest in understanding depression, until November 29, 2020.
You can also improve your health and wellness at Torrens University’s Wellbeing Centre. Our health students are providing supervised services in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.