Ossie Award Winner

I am proud to announce we have tied equal first in the Ossie Awards for mental health journalism after nominating the story Mental health is back in fashion.


Matthew Mitcham opens up on mental health

Written by Rachel Harding

Australian olympic diver Matthew Mitcham (@matthew_mitcham) spoke openly about his battle with depression and substance abuse yesterday at the North Brisbane Mental Health Community Resources Expo.

Mitcham said being open about his mental health and sexuality has had a profound effect on his self esteem and career.


Mitcham showing the crowd another one of his amazing talents at North Brisbane Community Resource Expo

“The more I share my story, the more we all share our stories, the more it helps to break down stigma surrounding mental health that prevented me from reaching out when I was a teenager,” he said.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is to reach out as a first resort rather than a last resort like I did.”

Mitcham said he has lived with depression and substance abuse since being a teenager, but only in recent years sought the help he needed.

“Drugs and alcohol were once a negative influence on my life, but now they’re a positive influence because I get to share my story and help others with their mental health,” he said.

“My idea of a good role model is someone who learns from their mistakes, not someone who doesn’t make mistakes because let’s face it, that is unrealistic,” he said.

Queensland Reds player Curtis Browning (@curtis_browning) is also an ambassador for mental health who attended the event on the October 10.

Browning said playing sport and keeping active help him to stay mentally healthy.


Promoting mental health in sport leads to healthier and happier minds for sporting professionals, and it also encourages people with mental health conditions to become more physically active.

Exercise physiologist Alex Magee (@GreenAppleQLD) said exercise can provide a lot of complimentary benefits for everyone, such as increased energy levels and quality of sleep, and is also known to treat mild to moderate depression and anxiety.

“Exercise is a main treatment modality for helping to alleviate symptoms of depression by helping people get more involved in social activities and boosting energy,” Magee said.

Magee said this research also shows that exercise makes people more resistant to stress, increases cognitive levels, and can help in thinking more clearly and to learn faster.

“If you’re not doing any exercise at the moment, even if you can just start with ten minutes, a couple of times a week, that is a really great thing to be doing,” Magee said.

“From there you’re going to find you’re getting some really good benefits of feeling happier, sleeping better and having more energy,” he said.

If you require urgent assistance, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

How is Australia feeling?

Written by Rachel Harding

HIAF logo reproduced with permission from Spur Projects.

HIAF logo reproduced with permission from Spur Projects.

Spur Projects have launched a national survey app that analyses the country’s mental health.

For Mental Health Week the app How Is Australia Feeling will be active, asking you three times a day how you are feeling.

The app was designed to generate a larger, general discussion about the feelings and moods of Australians after CEO of Spur Projects Lee Crockford discovered a number of people needing assistance with mental health do not seek help.

“We want real conversations on a national scale about mental health. The “How is Australia
Feeling?” project is one step in this process. We urge people to seek help and information if
they feel they need it,” Mr Crockford said.

Griffith University student Hayden Mckee has the report.


Visit the How Is Australia Feeling website to download the app and be part of Australia’s first ever mood barometer!


Note: Information sourced from HIAF media release.

Medication not the sole answer to treatment

Written by Rachel Harding

Edited by Krystal Gordon

Mental health services and people affected suggest medication is not the only way to address mental illness.

Aftercare Australia National Operations Manager Ivan Frkovic said other means of treatment are vital for maintaining mental health.

“Medication is important and can make a contribution in management as well as recovery of mental illness, but I don’t think it is the sole answer,” Mr Frkovic said.

Mental health Not for Profit organisation Group61 area coordinator Julie Richardson said in some cases medication is necessary but there are also other ways to treat mental illness.

“Having a good diet and doing plenty of exercise and finding hobbies are particularly good,” Ms Richardson said.

“Most importantly treatment should be about reducing the isolation of mental illness and the friendship aspect, as isolation really causes depression and can lead to hospital visits,” she said.

Aftercare Australia and Group61 offer a range of activities and support for people experiencing a mental illness which helps recovery and the transition back into society for those who have been hospitalised.

“We want people to be able to move on, we don’t want to hold them in this ‘mental illness space’,” Mr Frkovic says.

Group61 offers a friendship service and social outings for people transitioning back into society after hospitalisation.

“Our motto is ‘breaking the isolation of mental illness’, and our program is more than just an outing with a friend,” Ms Richardson said.

“We know our program is effective because we can see how happy and relaxed everyone is during activities,” she said.

Unfortunately there is a high number of young people not accessing the support they need to maintain mental well-being.

Mr Frkovic explains why mental illnesses are prevalent among young people in society.

“The stigma around mental health prevents young people from acting on it,” Mr Frkovic said.

Initiatives such as BeyondBlue and Headspace have made a huge difference by making society more accepting of mental health issues, but there is still work to be done on less prevalent and more severe conditions like bipolar and schizophrenia.

“Mental illness does set up challenges in life, but that does not mean that people with mental illness cannot be successful,” Mr Frkovic says.

Logan Anderson’s success story is just one example.

Anderson was diagnosed with a mental illness and found medication wasn’t helping.

Motivated to find alternative treatments he turned to traveling and at age 24 he is now the CEO of Halcyon Backpacking Company.

“I think the best thing someone can do to help their own mental health is to do things that they are passionate about and that bring them happiness,” Mr Anderson said.

“I found other things were more effective for me, things like travel, nature, writing, and being creative,” he said.

“If more of us returned to doing what we love, even just as a serious hobby, we would be more happy [sic].”

Halcyon Backpacking is a travel service for people aged between 18 and 35 with a mental illness who are passionate about travel.

“The tours will have a large outdoor and adventure component because nature has always been something that has helped my own recovery.”

Being the first of its kind, Halcyon Backpacking is starting up and soon to be offering tours that provide in-tour professional counselling to improve mental well-being, whilst exploring Canada, the USA, Europe and eventually Australia.

Below are a few images from tours available in Canada.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


If you need urgent assistance, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

For more information about Halcyon Backpacking, Group61 and Aftercare Australia visit our organisations page.



Coffee break challenge for mental health

Written by Krystal Gordon

Edited by Rachel Harding

Around 50 people are giving up coffee for an entire month to help break the isolation of mental illness.

The Coffee Break Project is an annual challenge that encourages people to ‘get talking about mental health’ by donating their coffee money to non profit organisation Group61.

Coffee Break Project-0954

Founder of Group61 John Fox and Roselee Jencke at the event. Photo by CTD photography and Design (@ClaireTamsin, @m4m_quips). Used with permission of Claire Tamsin Davies.

Mission Queensland Firebirds Coach and Coffee Break Ambassador Roselee Jencke said she hopes the coffee break project will lead the conversation about mental health and keep the conversation going.

Group61 Coordinator Sharon Munn said the charity has volunteers that meet weekly with a person experiencing mental illness to chat over coffee and develop a friendship.

“They just have that conversation over coffee and over a few weeks, over a few months, they form that really close relationship and that’s the support that we’re offering friends that feel very isolated,” Ms Munn said.

Sharon said the highest proportion of volunteers and people experiencing mental illness are in their early twenties and mid-forties.

Coffee Break Project-0971

Rebecca Pini and friend at the Coffee Break Rooftop Soiree. Photo by CTD photography and Design (@ClaireTamsin, @m4m_quips). Used with permission of Claire Tamsin Davies.

Event organiser Rebecca Pini said she believes that people aged between 18 and 25 are fairly open about their mental health compared to people over 30.

“Young people are the messengers…. they are very comfortable with talking about mental illness in every spectrum which is depression, schizophrenia, bipolar and anxiety,” Mrs Pini said.

Coffee Break Ambassador Roselee Jencke said it’s important for young people to look after their physical and mental health.

“It’s a balancing act, I think that it’s really important that they are looking after their health and that’s making sure that they’re physically active, they’re eating well, they’re not doing drugs and that’s really important because that does have a huge impact on your mental health,” Ms Jencke said.

She said young people who are not feeling great should go and talk to their Doctor because early intervention is important.

“There are a lot of demands on young people to be successful, to be achieving, and they are wanting to pack everything into their lives and really it can be quite overwhelming and when you feel overwhelmed when all those pressures come on, you need to make sure that you can go and do an activity or something that you are passionate about that’s going to give you that break away from that other area of your life,” she said.


Ben Zabel and his mother, Margaret Parkhill at the Coffee Break Project Rooftop Soirée last night. Photo by Krystal Gordon.

Former Big Brother Contestant and Coffee Break Ambassador Ben Zabel (@BenFromBrisbane) said mental health is close to his heart.

“I was a flight attendant for 10 years and as soon as they found out (the airline that I work with) that I was taking sick days because of depression and anxiety, I was made to feel very unwelcome at the company and they managed to get me out of the company six months before my long service leave,” Mr Zabel said.

Ben said to manage his mental health he tried a range of alternative therapies as well as medication.

Courier Mail Journalist and Ambassador Belinda Seeney (@BelindaSeeney) said young people need to find that person they trust to help share the burden.

“If you can find someone who is non-judgemental and who is just happy to listen you can just offload to them, it’s just such a relief,” Ms Seeney said.

“Everything you are going through, there is someone going through the exact same thing.”

Coffee Break Project-0950

Espresso Martinis at the event. Photo by CTD photography and Design (@ClaireTamsin, @m4m_quips). Used with permission of Claire Tamsin Davies.

Coffee Break Project (@CoffeeBreakOct) held a Rooftop Soirée last night to launch the challenge where attendees enjoyed canapés, espresso martinis and jazz music.

The challenge runs for the month of October as part of national mental health month.

Group61 Secretary Amanda Goddard said giving up coffee will be a struggle but if going without means she is helping people with a mental illness then she is more than happy to participate.

“It’s the worst month of my life but I do it to raise awareness of mental illness in our community because I feel very passionate about it,” Miss Goddard said.

Group61 Coordinator Sharon Munn said they have just started networking events for volunteers in their twenties to encourage more young people to volunteer.

For more information about the Coffee Break Project or volunteering for Group61 click on these links.

Disclaimer: The Coffee Break Project provided Krystal Gordon a free ticket valued at $85 to attend the event for the purpose of writing the story.

Last updated 17/10/14

Speak your mind

ABC Open has a new project titled ‘Speak Your Mind’ where hundreds of young Australians are sharing their personal stories of mental health. You can write and submit your own experience and read through what other young Aussies have to say on the topic. Click here to get involved with this great initiative.

Mental health is back in fashion

Written by Krystal Gordon

Edited by Rachel Harding

Young people are helping remove the stigma attached to mental illness by getting involved with Think Education’s first ever fashion event ‘A Beautiful Mind’.

The Brisbane College held a fashion show and auction over the weekend to raise awareness of mental health and funds for youth mental health service, Headspace Woolloongabba.

Footage by Krystal Gordon and Rachel Harding. Produced by Krystal Gordon. 

Executive Director of Headspace Ivan Frkovic said the best way to promote mental health is to engage young people.

“If you intervene early, if you try and get in there to change the trajectory you can actually help young people change their long term life prospects,” Mr Frkovic said.

“The biggest barrier for young people these days in our society is around stigma related to accessing support and services,” he said.

“It is not wrong to ask for help. We all experience life stresses, we know that anywhere between six and seven percent of our 16 to 25 year olds will experience depression in any one year.”

Think Education Director Warren Walmsley said the t-shirts created by design students are being showcased to raise mental health awareness, and will be auctioned off at Think Education’s Open Day where a number of key note speakers will talk about issues surrounding youth mental health.

Interview and production by Krystal Gordon.

Headspace supports people aged 12 to 25 and through the collaboration with Think Education they will be able to appoint a dietician.

Headspace psychologist Leah Jamesion said a dietician enables them to become a more holistic service.

“Where there are mental health and wider issues often diets become neglected,” Ms Jamesion said.

Fashion_beautiful mind_headspace

Warren Walmsley , Lucia Hiscock and Ivan Frkovic at the ‘A Beautiful Mind’ Fashion show. Source: Think Education students.

Think Education student Lucia Hiscock organised the event to get people talking about mental illness.

“The event came out of a personal development community project. I chose it because my mum had a mental illness and out of her struggles I want to get people talking about it,” Mrs Hiscock said.

Billy Blue design student Kathryn Yost said she enjoyed being part of the project which gave her the opportunity to make something real.

Fashion_beautiful mind_headspace

Kathryn Yost ‘s design. Source: Think Education students.

“My design is a white and orange t-shirt; it has the words typeface ‘a beautiful mind’ with a texture behind it which is actually acrylic paint swirled around so it sort of disappears and appears in different ways and that’s to sort of mimic the way our minds work,” Ms Yost said.

Kathryn Yost said mental illness has a sad, depressing stigma and this motivated her to create something fun.

“Your mind is beautiful and you can create anything within it because it’s you, so that’s kind of the notion I was going with.”

Think Education Director Warren Walmsley said he hopes ‘A Beautiful Mind’ will make a big difference and become a national project.


Leah Jamesion Psychologist and Jennifer Eustace Medical Receptionist at the Fashion Show in Queen Street Mall, Brisbane. Photo by Krystal Gordon.


“We have campuses in Sydney and in Melbourne covering the same colleges and disciplines and so we’re hoping that if this is the success that I know it will be that the idea will be picked up by our colleagues in other states,” Mr Walmsley said.

Think Education’s project raised $1100 for Headspace Woolloongabba.

Anyone needing more information or to talk about mental illness can contact:

Headspace – 07 3249 2222

Lifeline – 13 11 14

Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636


Think Education

 This post was last updated on the 26/09/14 by Krystal Gordon.