Burdening the mental wellbeing of hundreds of millions of people worldwide, anxiety and depression disorders have a staggering reach. Depression affects 350 million people globally, with three million dealing with depression and anxiety in Australia alone. The push to alleviate the often-stifling stigma attached to mental health issues has given birth to a wealth of new, creative and no-nonsense initiatives that promote acceptance, understanding and appreciation for the millions of people around the globe who are left in the dark.
ONE WAVE, AUSTRALIA
Brightening the lives of others one wave at a time, the One Wave initiative aims to help those with mental health issues “free the funk” by applying the tried-and-tested method of salt water, surfing, good mates and a flash of fluoro.
Founder Grant Trebilco, who suffers from bipolar disorder, found the above recipe to be the only thing that helped him after years of personal struggle.
“It was going out into the ocean that actually made me feel like things could get better,” he explains.
Grant subsequently developed the One Wave initiative with friend Sam Schumacher in 2013. The two mates were seeking to make depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder more approachable subjects for affected people and their immediate network of family and friends.
The end goal is to secure a wide base of community support through the recurring Fluoro Friday event; where people with mental health issues and supporters take part in meet-up surf sessions and talk openly and freely about mental health.
Since its inception two years ago, the initiative has brightened over 50 beaches and the lives of countless people worldwide. By using surfing as a unique common denominator, One Wave is able to create a relaxed, therapeutic atmosphere that promotes breaking barriers, building self-esteem and inciting a fresh engagement with new people and life in general.
Grant himself is the perfect example of the success of Fluoro Friday. “I know every Friday, I know when I go down there, I’ve got all these good people and it makes the week that much better.”
SPUR PROJECTS, AUSTRALIA
Fuelled by a desire to dismantling pre-conceived ideas about depression, Spur Projects created the Soften the Fck Up campaign to address the damaging stereotypes that surround males navigating mental health issues.
It’s a hugely worthy cause, considering suicide remains the biggest killer of Australian men aged 14-44. In response, Spur directly targets suicide prevention by rejecting ‘traditional’ ideas of masculinity. Direct, no-bullshit language in their Soften the Fck Up campaign seeks to encourage men to abandon the notion that talking about mental illness is a sign of weakness. Defining masculinity, argues the campaign, is damaging to any man, especially those who subscribe to the idea that emotions aren’t ‘manly’.
Reinforced by events like ‘Fck Up Night’ – an organised meet-up where those who are struggling pledge to meet one new person and share a f*ck up – Spur Projects work to allow participants the opportunity to share their struggles free from judgement, with the ultimate hope of lessening them.
NOT MYSELF TODAY, CANADA
Focusing on the staggering number of Canadians who miss work due to mental health struggles, the Not Myself Today campaign takes aim at how companies can create a healthy environment of openness and care for those who have difficulty juggling their work life and mental health issues.
“There’s a profoundly important economic reason to support this issue, but the real issue is the humanitarian issue,” Michael Kirby, Founding Chair of Partners for Mental Health explains. “So many Canadians who suffer from mental health issues do so with silence because of the stigma surrounding [it].”
Building a network of over 180 businesses Canada-wide, the campaign focuses on creating support for both sufferers and the companies that employ them.
Businesses that join the movement are supported in developing more open lines of dialogue with their employees with supplied conversation cards, posters, badges and stickers as well as a wealth of resources. These efforts assist workplaces to promote healthy and honest discussions about mental health its management in the workplace.
JAMTLI MUESUM, SWEDEN
The Swedes have a talent for tackling issues from a unique angle, and a small museum in the rural town of Östersund is proof of just that.
Drawing people with mental health issues from nearby hospital K2 into the natural surrounds of the Swedish countryside, the open-air Jamtli Museum seeks to inspire a sense of purpose by putting them to work on a 19th century-style farm, with activities like brushing cows and digging up potatoes.
“Very few jobs are about trying to make our community better and making people feel better about themselves – but that’s our main mission,” Anna Hansen, the museum’s head of research, explains.
Tasks at the museum’s farm are both achievable and meaningful; aiming to boost self-esteem and social skills, as well as develop participants’ knowledge of agriculture. Studies show the simple, yet satisfying work at these weekly afternoon sessions is able to reinvigorate personal purpose – so much so that some participants have even said the farm has saved their life.
RADIO LA COLIFATA, ARGENTINA
Rather than stifle freedom of speech for those dealing with mental health issues, one Argentinian radio station is giving them a voice.
Radio La Colifata (this Buenos Aires slang roughly translates to a non-derogatory term for ‘loony’) broadcasts weekly from inside Hospital Borda, the country’s biggest psychiatric hospital, and is presented by current and former patients.
The hour-long segment, lead by psychologist Victoria Noguera, covers a broad range of content: some patients read self-composed poetry, some lead discussions and debates while new hosts delve into their current problems by way of introduction to their audience. The show aims to give participants a place where their thoughts are valued and appreciated.
“La Colifata creates encounters and cooperation, which is the opposite of confinement and exclusion promoted by the [hospital] environment,” Noguera explains.
Successfully broadcast since 1991, the initiative has unsurprisingly inspired similar programs in France, Italy and Spain and has even featured celebrity callers including musician Manu Chao and Oscar-winning director Francis Ford Coppola. Its popularity has even influenced a new law passed in Argentina in 2010 that prevents the creation of new psychiatric hospitals in order to force alternative forms of treatment and encourage more permissive public opinions.