I’ve been on a little hiatus from the blog but I’m back now and I’ve started phase 2 of awareness spreading. I’m moving into other avenues to raise awareness and spread my message – the next avenue being through something more visual and tangible.
I’ve put the 1983 photo of my dad on the front of a t-shirt because, one, I love it, two, it embodies all the work I’m doing, and three, he is a Mick Jagger looking character and if he were around today I’m sure he’d be just as cool as the man himself.
Nearly everyone in my family has this image framed on the wall of their living room. It’s the face of brendanmcdonnell.com – my personal brand. If you know brendanmcdonnell.com you’ll more than likely know the image from the home page. Perhaps you know some of the story behind it too.
As my cousin put it, this old portrait personifies an Aussie male stereotype that many can relate to or at least recognise… Rough, tough, covered in tatts, with a smug confidence and sense of humour. The portrait is a conversation starter and exactly the type of imagery that could be easily associated with a powerful message.
This strong man suffered from mental illness for a long time and he died from suicide. It goes to show that this shit doesn’t discriminate and that there is a need to break down this stereotype to remove stigmas surrounding mental health and suicide and get people talking!!
The stereotype directly contrasts the story behind the picture.
I think it goes a little something like this:
“That’s Herman, a well-known 1990’s South Aussie tattoo artist, biker and family man. He suffered from depression for many years and it inevitably overcame him when he took his own life in 2007”.
AND hopefully continues:
“His youngest son, Brendan, found his dad’s body when he was only 15. Now, 8 years on, he’s been able to give his dad’s death meaning and is creating a movement for change. He writes about his experiences on brendanmcdonnell.com and is now moving into other avenues to raise awareness and spread his message”.
The macho male bravado or stereotype so common in Australia is a shit part of our culture if you ask me. There’s no denying the existence of a culture that condemns the vulnerable.
(Deep, Aussie accent: “Oh they reckon he’s got depression but its bullshit, he’s just a soft …insert swear word…”)
I was once someone who made up this stereotype, acted with this bravado and lived within this culture. AND to be frank, had my dad never suffered from depression and taken his own life I’d probably still be arrogant and oblivious to my own suffering – let alone the suffering of others. I know that those who make up this stereotype are some of the people most affected by mental health disorders and suicide but don’t realise it. I think it stands in the way of this realisation and a greater level of awareness AND furthermore, contributes to the stigmas surrounding mental health and suicide…
My last blog post was a little survey about mental health. My findings were that of over 100 people surveyed 96% of people believe that depression and anxiety are real illnesses. 93% know someone or have known someone living with a mental health disorder or mental illness. 63% live with or have lived with a mental health disorder or mental illness and 74% know someone who’s died from suicide. Now, perhaps these stats may be a little skewed since those who participated in the survey are already followers of my blog (or friends of followers) and thus more likely to be already aware of mental health issues… However, broader studies when combining demographics suggest that almost half (45%) of Australians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime (Black Dog Institute). Almost one in two. One in fucking two!?! Half. Every other person you know. Consider that for a moment.
Despite these high numbers, I found that only 24% knew that suicide remains the leading cause of death and accounts for more deaths than car accidents in Australians aged between 15 and 44, and that for every completed suicide attempt, it is estimated that as many as 30 people attempt (that’s 200 attempts per day in Australia alone – new one every 10 minutes). Also that 1 in 16 young Australians are currently experiencing depression, 1 in 6 is currently experiencing an anxiety disorder and 1 in 4 have a mental health condition.
My other finding was that 75% of those surveyed feel ‘normal’ or ‘good’ about talking about mental health and suicide in general. Again, this number may be due to participants already being followers of my blog etc. But I still find it hard to believe… If we feel so comfortable about these topics why aren’t we talking? And what are we actually talking about if only a small few of us know what is actually happening – right under our noses???
We can all sit behind our computers and smart-phones, staring at these problems. I can sit here behind my keyboard writing deeply personal shit about mental health and my experiences. But where does it get us? I’m so proud of what this blog has done for a lot of people, but I think we can do more. Collectively. I don’t want what I’ve shared here to fade away in to the digital ether and be forgotten. It’s time to attach this message to a more tangible and identifiable vehicle for awareness spreading. To put a face to it. To put it out into the world in a real way. To make people notice. To CREATE DIALOGUE and to INSPIRE CHANGE. If you’ll join me in spreading this message, in wearing your heart on your sleeve, then grab one of my t-shirts. Wear it. Proudly. And when people ask “who’s that character on your chest?” Boom! Use the opportunity to “create a dialogue, and inspire change”. You can be a vehicle for change too. Shit, you might just reach the one person who really needed to know… “I’m not alone? I can talk about this.”
Soon, I’ll be taking this approach to another level and announcing a clothing label and website that ties this idea together and makes it real. Keep an eye out, but for now… This t-shirt is beginning.
(Please note: when I had the first run of t-shirts printed I used ‘provoke thought, start dialogue, facilitate change’. But, a few people asked me what facilitate meant – which is fair enough – so I’ve developed it)
By bringing mental health and suicide to the forefront of the mind in a positive manner, we can raise awareness and remove the stigma surrounding these topics. Along with this, the stereotype and culture that condemns the vulnerable will cease to exist.
At least that’s what I’m aiming for…
You can buy t-shirts here:
10% of the profits will be going to a yet to be determined mental health organisation. (There are some good ones out there, but I’ll be taking a closer look at these organisations before I decide where to send the funds… I just want to make sure it’s going to be put to the best possible use)…
In a month or so I’m launching a second website.
This t-shirt is only the start of something much bigger.
Thanks for reading.
These pictures are by my one-of-a-kind cousin: www.joshuakanephotography.com
Thank you Josh!