Talking with Mitch from 'Speak up, Stay ChatTY'.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and what ‘SPEAK UP! Stay ChatTY’ is about.
So I am 29 years of age, and live down here in Hobart Tasmania. Life for me now is very different to what it was 4 and a half years ago. I am a glazier by trade and had been a tradie for 7 years. Life was very care free, I loved watching and playing sports, spent time with my girlfriend (who is now my Wife), and enjoyed having a good time with my mates. But 4 and a half years ago that all changed when I lost my little 18 year old brother Ty to suicide.
Ty was the last person we imagined that had been struggling with mental illness, so this turned our world upside down.
In the wake of the devastation left behind, and in his legacy, I founded and continue to run full time a registered not-for profit here in Tasmania. It is called SPEAK UP! Stay ChatTY and is aimed at de-stigmatising mental health with people of all ages. I tell my story of sadness and loss in a bid for others to learn from my previous lack of understanding on mental health.
We have raised over $400,000 here in Tasmania through events, gala balls, golf days and workplace fundraisers. In Tasmania SUSC would now be a household name in most homes. State government funding recently will allow us to employ staff to continue growing our #TeamChatTY High Schools program.
What is the main goal of your organisation?
I have delivered my lived experience story over 600 times now across the country. And each time I deliver that, my main aim is for people to learn from my previous ways, especially my ignorance towards mental health.
I speak of moments where I look back now and realise there were so many opportunities I had to ask my brother if everything was alright, but I didn’t. I didn’t do that because I didn’t think mental health was affecting those I loved. So I am really big on breaking down those barriers among people, so that they always feel comfortable to ask those questions that I never asked.
What has your experience with Mental Health been like?
I have come from a world where in my mind mental health never existed. I didn’t know anyone directly that had suicided, and I didn’t know anyone who had openly said they had mental health issues. So it just wasn’t on my radar.
Now, I am a passionate advocate for change. And whilst there are a lot of sad days I have in remembering my own experiences, or getting wound up in someone else’s, I wouldn’t change the direction I am on for the world. Everyone knows I would go back to being a glazier to have Ty back. But I feel I now am blessed to hopefully save others and change their views on the topic.
Why do you think that conversations around mental health are important?
The main thing I have learnt on this journey is that there is nothing more important in life than a good old conversation. I encourage everyone I meet to every day talk about the things happening in your life. Even if its small and you think no one cares, get it off your chest. Because there will be bad days, and we need the people around us to know what’s happening in our lives, because they are the ones that can help us in our toughest times. Conversations save lives, I am so confident of that!
What do you do to help yourself when things are getting a bit tough?
I am now all about self-care. I preach it each and every day to anyone I come in contact with. Our tanks empty so fast every day, so we need to fill them up every chance we get to keep on top of things. For me, I love watching sport, I love being kind to my friends and family, I go for a run, call my mates every day, enjoy dining out, and the odd glass of red. Doing these keeps me balanced, keeps me well, and I am constantly connected.
If someone else is in a difficult position that you have been in, what do you think would be most helpful for them to know?
I wouldn’t say that I have directly battled mental health issues. Grief at its worse yes, but that’s a big difference I feel. I know enough about it now to tell people who are struggling and feel it’s all too much at times, that tomorrow is a new day. The amount of times I have worried about something when I am in bed, but as soon as I wake I have a new and improved approach to it, it changes everything. If something is getting you down, and you feel you can’t get through it, just go and tell someone and you’ll be surprised at how much that helps you see it from a fresh perspective. I am also aware this is easier said than done, but its best to always try….
Any information on this blog is not a substitute for professional advice. It is written from personal experience and research only. If you are in crisis, go to your nearest emergency room, call lifeline on 13 11 14 or dial 000. If you live outside Australia, link to worldwide crisis numbers can be found in the sidebar.