Mitch speaking at our National Nursing Forum Gala Dinner in Hobart
Mitch McPherson is a mental health advocate and founder of SPEAK UP! Stay ChatTY , a charity that works to promote positive mental health and prevent suicide by reducing stigma and encouraging people to seek help. ACN was privileged to have Mitch speak at our National Nursing Forum Gala Dinner in Hobart and his powerful presentation moved all in the room. To mark Mental Health Week, we caught up with Mitch to discuss his personal journey and gain insight into how we can create a positive perception of mental health in Australia.
Can you explain your journey as a mental health advocate and the background of your charity SPEAK UP! Stay ChatTY
My story goes back to 2013 when I was working as a glazier, playing footy and drinking beers on weekends and living a care-free life. That all changed on 14 January 2013 when my 18-year-old younger brother Ty took his own life; a really tough and awful time for my family. Initially we were saying we didn’t see any signs that Ty was struggling but as we learned more about mental health, we realised he sat in a category of young men who could have been experiencing issues with their mental health.
It was out of that sadness and anger that I started to raise awareness through a car bumper sticker with our logo and we ended up selling a lot in the first few months. I also began blogging on our Facebook page about moments I’d missed or times when I could have asked Ty if he was okay. From there I started doing public speaking and have been full-time in the space for over five years. SPEAK UP! Stay ChatTY has now grown into a big organisation with ten staff!
What can be done to break down stigmas surrounding mental illness?
We can re-affirm and make people realise how common mental illness is. One in five Australians experience a mental illness in their lifetime. The way to break down stigmas is to encourage people (men in particular) to have a conversation about mental health and make them realise they are not alone. People think that if they are struggling with those signs and symptoms, they are strange and different, but it is really important to highlight that these signs are prominent and prevalent. Chances are that if you are in a room with more than five people, there is somebody else who is struggling with their mental health. That’s how I believe we can break down stigmas and help educate people on where the help services are in their area so they can access support.
We think that somebody close to use is struggling: What can we do to help?
I am a big believer in checking in when somebody is even one per cent off their game. If you don’t check in and that person doesn’t understand that it’s okay to talk about how they are feeling, the next day they could be two or five per cent off their game. It is so much harder to bounce back to your absolute best if you don’t talk about it or somebody doesn’t ask how you are travelling.If you truly believe somebody is off their game and they tell you they are fine, then persistence is the key. The reality is that it may take years or months for that person to open up, but it is more important than leaving them alone.
What advice would you give to somebody struggling with their mental health?
The first thing I say to anybody brave enough to admit they are struggling with their mental health is that they are absolutely not alone and that there are so many people in the same boat. It is important to know there is help out there. If you are struggling, I urge you to have a conversation with somebody you trust to see if they can assist you in getting the support you need.
Another crucial point is that if you are going to see a general practitioner, counsellor or service provider and they don’t seem to do the job for you, it is important to go again. If somebody isn’t a great fit for you, that’s okay, jump on the phone or internet and try again until you find somebody who suits you.
You can learn more about Mitch by visiting his website, following his Facebook and Instagram pages or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find SPEAK UP! Stay ChatTY on Facebook and Instagram.
If this article has raised any concerns for you, please contact one of the organisations below:
Lifeline Australia — 13 11 14
Kids Helpline — 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia — 1300 789 978
Suicide Call Back Service — 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue — 1300 224 636