It crystallised to me, just how critical it is, that we realise the capacity and weight of our role in the social impact space. We must stand for those who cannot stand for themselves. We must continually instil courage in others to speak out and prompt the difficult conversations. Breaking the silence, breaks the stigma, and these conversations can be life changing.
I was at a YMCA, I’d just finished my swim set, there was a group of men chatting and packing away their swim gear. The usual banter was going on about footy, family and the weather. I was keeping to myself, but smiled when I was acknowledged.
All of a sudden one of the men asked the group, “Have any of you guys experienced teen suicide?” This question cut through the conversation like an unexpected missile. There was silence and the mood suddenly shifted from playful to apprehensive. Everyone stopped laughing. It was very obvious this topic was not only uncomfortable, but way off course from the usual post swim chat. The man whom raised the question was clearly wondering whether he’d over stepped the mark. This silence lasted a painfully long time, before he said, “It was one of my son’s friends, and I don’t know what to say to him”.
Finally one of the other men provided some comfort by telling him it’s terribly sad and said he’s sorry. This was met by an even longer silence. At last someone spoke, “You just have to read that sign over there to realise we all need to get better at this conversation”. The men unanimously agreed, nodding at one another. I looked up – they were referring to one of our WHY NOT campaign posters that states: No one is screaming that one in four young Australians has a mental health condition. WhyNot?
NB: The author did not supply an image for this piece, we chose a humdinger ourselves.