To kick off our birthday week celebrations, our Founder Mitch put together a reflection for the Mercury Talking Point.
*Sensitive content below
“I will never forget the moment, sitting on my bed at my Dad’s place in Tranmere. Tears streaming down my face as I put pen to paper to draw a sticker design.”
It was May, 2013, roughly 4 months after my 18-year-old brother Ty, had suicided.
I had just left from visiting my Mum’s place, having yet again sat alongside her in her grief in losing her youngest son.
For some weeks now I had been feeling an overwhelming need to turn this pain I was feeling, that my family was feeling, into something positive. I’d slowly been getting a deeper understanding of the small but significant signs I had missed in my brother, that he wasn’t okay.
I couldn’t help but almost lose my breath each time I thought about what more I could have done to support him had I know what he was facing, to check in more and sit beside him.
I was broken, I was lost, I was watching everyone around me engulfed in grief, but somehow the idea of paying tribute to Ty gave me some strength.
I wish I’d kept the original piece of paper that had that first pair of shorts on it, with the slogan SPEAK UP! Stay ChatTY inside its borders.
If only I had known how significant that design would become not only for me and my family, but for the Tasmanian community.
The creation of the “Stay ChatTY sticker” became a positive focus for my family, but also built momentum in becoming a beacon of hope for other Tasmanians.
A way to normalise talking about mental health, a way to break down stigma. A way to unify in a mission to spark conversations and check in on each other.
I will always be humbled by the support I received for showing vulnerability through story telling. Sharing my lived experience with anyone who would listen.
I was able to create so many deep connections with people all across Tasmania and abroad. Connections with people from all walks of life – that is the power of being genuine, raw and vulnerable.
That simple design of shorts has become a reminder to so many that having a bad day is okay, a beacon of support to those needing advice for a loved one or colleague, and a glimmer of hope to those experiencing challenges and feeling sadness, pain and hopelessness.
As we approach 10 years of Stay ChatTY, there’s so much to reflect on, there have been highs, there have been some very challenging lows, and I genuinely have so much to be grateful for.
It has been incredible to think of the stories shared, the kindness, the opportunities, the fundraising, the travel and most importantly the positive change we have made together – as a community!
From community support, Stay ChatTY has grown from a team of one to a team of eight, delivering thousands of mental health literacy sessions right across the state in schools, workplaces, sporting clubs and community groups.
The feedback we’ve received has been so encouraging – hearing that people have sought help, learnt tools and strategies, been courageous enough to check in on someone, courageous enough to open up to a loved one, upskilled in mental health, pioneered change in their workplace mental health culture and so much more, because of our presentations.
Over 90,000 stickers have been distributed, popping up all across the country.
But there’s no denying that big milestones also bring big amounts of sadness for me on a personal level.
It took my brother’s passing to give me a purpose in life, and for that I know that I will never be fully comfortable with it or find a way to completely reconcile.
I wish I knew more 10 years ago, I wish I took the time to learn 10 years ago, I wish conversations about mental health were more normalised back then, and I wish every day I could go back.
For me and the team, this is what Stay ChatTY is all about. Giving people the conversations, the tools, the courage, and the capacity to look after themselves, reach out for help and have the hard conversations with their friends and family.
It’s about empowering individuals and communities with mental health literacy so that everyone knows and feels they can make a positive difference to someone who is struggling. It’s about creating communities who don’t shy away from tough conversations about mental health and suicide, but brave them because they know they can save a life.
We still have a long way to go, but I am proud to know that Stay ChatTY has played an important role in shifting the stigma of mental health and suicide. And with community support, I hope we can continue be part of this critical change.
10 years down, a decade of impact … and many more years of impact to come!
If this reflection has bought about feelings you would like to unpack further, please reach out to Lifeline on 13 11 14.