This week I had a coffee date with fellow chamber member, Margaret Sims. During our catchup Margaret shared that a young man from the local NOW Business Group, of which she is also a member, had recently taken his own life. Margaret said that the group was devastated by the loss because Ashley Clymo was a positive, generous, community-minded person and small business owner and no-one had seen it coming. It turns out that Ash, like many people in our community, experienced acute anxiety.

The fact is that one in five of us experience a mental illness each year and almost half of us during our lifetime. Frighteningly eight Australians die by suicide every day and another eight attempt suicide every hour. These statistics are of course people – dads, mums, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunties, uncles, grandparents and children and their decision shatters many lives.

Despite not actually knowing Ashley the news of his passing hit me hard. I think it felt very close to home – Margaret could easily have been describing my mental health crisis or one of you when she told me about Ashley’s personality and achievements. But I realise that it was also because I know that suicide is preventable. After going through my own suicidal crisis I understand that it is possible to alter our narrative and to implement strategies that can change our perspective on life and allow us to create the life we desire.

Many people rarely share how they’re feeling on the inside and instead put on a mask and deal with their challenges alone. Alone is absolutely not the answer. We need to talk about what’s happening on the inside, we need to be open and vulnerable, we need to reach out to each other to share stories and create connection.

I recall a time when I had one of my significant mindset shifts – many chamber friends commented at a social event that I was somehow ‘different’. I knew that the difference was that I had let go of my fear and doubt and had stepped into my business and my life path. I shared with a past Chamber member that night that I had previously measured my success by the length of time between my thoughts of “you should give this up and go get a real job and after spreading further and further apart they had finally stopped”. He was shocked and said “You don’t tell people that do you?” I replied, “Well no, I don’t tell my clients but I actually think it’s important that we have these conversations with each other because it’s so easy to think you’re the only one”.

Over the past few years I have learnt that none of us are completely immune to mental illness and suicidal thoughts. For some, like me, there can be cracks in our psyche that we haven’t dealt with. However, mental health challenges can also result from an accumulation of challenges over time or an unexpected life experience.

Just some of the many things that we can do to support each other include:

  • Show a genuine interest in those in your community and work forces and build relationships which will allow you to recognise and reach out when someone is struggling.
  • Tell people what you admire about them and let them know you appreciate them.
  • Be kind to people and practice curiosity rather than judgement.
  • Reach out to people when you hear they are experiencing challenges.
  • Learn about mental illness, particularly the signs and how you can support someone who is struggling.
  • Be vulnerable and share your stories to help normalise conversations about mental health.

On Wednesday and Thursday, 4 and 5 December 2019, I will be delivering the two day Mental Health First Aid course at my home office at Everton Park. This course builds understanding of mental illness and teaches adults (18 years and over) how to provide initial support to adults who are developing a mental illness or experiencing a mental health crisis. Participants are eligible to become an accredited Mental Health First Aider.

All Chamber members and your staff are eligible for a $50 discount on the registration fee. Bookings can be made at:  https://www.trybooking.com/BGSGQ. The discount code is Chamber.

You can view a moving tribute to Ashley delivered to Parliament by Chamber member, Tim Mander, MP recently below.

.

Note: The Hills & Districts Chamber of Commerce Inc advises that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this post belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the Chamber, or a committee or other group or individual associated with the Chamber.

Donna Thistlethwaite

Donna Thistlethwaite is the Principal of Career Vitality, an RUOK? Community Ambassador and a Vice President of the Chamber