Mitch McPherson, founder of Tasmanian-based mental health and suicide prevention organisation SPEAK UP! Stay ChatTY, called on delegates attending the 15th National Rural Health Conference in Hobart earlier this year to return to their communities and spread the message of the importance of positive mental health and encouraging people to seek help.
Mr McPherson, who is also an R U OK? ambassador, established the organisation in 2013 after his younger brother Ty took his own life.
He believes conversations can change lives and shares his personal story across schools, workplaces and sporting clubs in a bid to empower people to seek support for mental health issues for themselves and others when they need it.
His story openly reveals his ignorance towards mental health prior to his brother’s suicide and how he missed several warning signs.
At the 15th National Rural Health Conference, run by the National Rural Health Alliance, Mr McPherson revealed his top 5 ways to make a difference when it comes to mental health.
“I really do believe that it’s okay that we all have bad days,” Mr McPherson says.
“Conversations still need to be had when we’re having a flat time. I always urge people continue to stick to your normal routine. You roll into, your roll into school, you’ve got your prep, you’ve got your coffee, still have those chats and those conversations with those around you because although at times you can’t be stuffed, having conversations absolutely helps your mental health and it helps the mental health of those you engage with.”
“If someone’s 1% off it’s okay to ask that question – RUOK? I never knew all those years ago but I know how the power of it and do know now that when I ask someone that question ad if they turn around and tell me that things aren’t okay or of they tell you that things aren’t right and that things are going wrong in their life, you don’t have to fix their problems.
“Listening saves lives, good eye contact saves lives, showing you care saves lives. So the next time you see someone who’s just off don’t think I can’t ask because I have to fix their problems. Ask the question and just do that [listen] because we know how good it feels to get something off our chest.”
Get the help you need
Mr McPherson says everyone experiences depression and anxiety at some time in their life.
“No one in this world was born to not experience a bit of anxiety or depression at times and go through high and low mood and different changes in life.
“But what’s important is to monitor that. Get the help you need is really important and that can mean just having a conversation. That doesn’t mean necessarily booking in to see a GP but it can mean having a conversation because that’s getting help. Talking about your emotions, talking about your feelings is getting help.”
Mr McPhersons says a lack of kindness can affect poor mental health for many people.
Through his work in schools and sporting environments, he suggests young people fear indifference.
“We as adults need to remember the importance of being kind. Hold doors, say nice things, post nice things on social media, because our young need it, they need to see us being role models and we need to start being kinder to each other moving forward.”
It’s OK to not be OK
“For me, the main reason this one is important is the last time I saw my little brother Ty, it is evident now that he wasn’t okay but above all that he didn’t know that it was ok to not be ok,” Mr McPherson told delegates.
“I have a huge hole in my heart and a very heavy heart that I’ll walk with for the rest of my life but what I see that night is my little brother laying there, pale faced, tears in his eyes, no doubt praying that I would notice but also no doubt also praying that he had the courage to call me in and say that things weren’t okay.”
Mr McPherson said he hoped delegates would take on board his five tips and take them back to their communities and spread the message far and wide.
Photo credit: Tony Lomas
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