CATEGORY


When an Armed Robber gives you a second chance!

When an Armed Robber gives you a second chance!

Tracking down armed robbers can be a painstaking challenge for Police, not only because their nearly always armed and dangerous, but they often don’t spend too long in the same hideout.

As a 24-year-old Constable with about two years in the job I was lucky enough to secure some relieving the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB). For me I joined the Police Service in 1997 with the sole intent of becoming a Detective, so I was super stoked getting some time relieving in that area so early in my service.

The hunt was on! We had a fit young armed robber who was running around with a sawn-off shotgun. Hiding out at different houses constantly, his location was hard to pin down.

One thing we knew was that wherever his girlfriend was he would be!

Then the intel came in, his girlfriend was at a house in Deception Bay.

We all kitted up and off we went, almost certain that if she was there he would be there. As we secured the outside and then moved into the house the search began. With the occupants protesting that neither of them was there our initial search drew a blank, that was until we tried to open the man hole cover.

Pushing up on the man hole cover it was obvious that there was either something or someone up in the roof pushing down on the cover. Knowing if he was up there he would be armed we drew our guns and the demands to come down were yelled loud and clear over and over again.

The situation was tense, not knowing if shotgun blasts were going to start coming down through the ceiling at us. The yelling got louder and louder requesting the person or people up there to surrender and come down.

After what felt like an eternity we heard a female voice say she was coming down. This is it I thought, if she is there, he is up there somewhere, and he will be armed. To say the situation was tense is an understatement.

After we got her down she protested that he was not up there and that she was alone. Not believing her story someone had to get up through the man hole and search the roof.

Being the youngest of the four of us by far I was soon thrown up into the roof space to search for the armed robber. My heart was in my mouth, I had my gun in one hand and a torch in the other as I started creeping my way around in the pitch-black roof space, secretly hoping he wasn’t in there.

I can remember that the roof space was covered in insulation, you know the type that looks like shredded cardboard and is normally sprayed into the roof through a large hose. It also had a massive beam that ran the length of the ceiling and was much higher than any of the other beams.

As I crept around I can tell you I was sh*t scared, sh*t scared that I was going to find him and get shot in the process.

Creeping from beam to beam listening and looking for any small bit of movement was a feeling I hadn’t previously experienced.

After looking everywhere, I could and not finding him in the pitch-black ceiling so I got back down and off we went.

That was it, we didn’t manage to find him during my 3-month relieving in the CIB and I headed back to uniform duties. It wasn’t until a few months later that things changed. I headed over to the watchhouse to assist with feeding the people who were in custody.

As I was handing out the meals to the people in custody (watchhouse) a young, fit and muscled up bloke piped up and said, ‘I know you’. Looking at him I couldn’t for the life of me think where from.

He then said proceeded to tell me that I was the one who was up in the roof space months earlier searching for him, and that he recognized me by my voice.

He then went on to tell me that whilst his girlfriend pressed her foot down on the man hole cover to prevent us lifting it that he laid on the floor of the roof on one side of the large beam and completely covered himself with the shredded insulation material.

He then boasted that at the time he was holding a loaded shotgun on his chest and told me that he would have used it on me if I had managed to find him that day.

Hearing those words at the age of 24 is something that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Sometimes people think chasing armed robbers is like you see on TV, but in reality, it is hard, long and dangerous work which involves confronting people who have little to no regard for the life of a Police Officer.

In recent years we have unfortunately lost a number of great officers in the pursuit of armed offenders. The feeling of willingly going into places like dark roof spaces searching for armed offenders is a feeling that is really hard to put into words, and one that is lost on the greater majority of society.

The stress that these high-risk activities place on the mental health of Police Officers is massive, and for some it can be an activity that is frequently repeated throughout their entire Policing career.

I know firsthand how this, and other similar incidents can affect your mental health, had I had the courage to speak up earlier about my personal mental health struggles from incidents like this, things may have been different.

If you are an emergency service worker and are exposed to incidents like this or if you are the partner of one, take it from someone who has been through it, these incidents affect those who are exposed to them.

It may not be straight away but over time the effects compound and if they are not treated they can have devastating effects on people’s mental health.

SPEAK UP AND ASK FOR SOME HELP!

To my former family in blue and other first responders I urge you to start a conversation with that one person you feel comfortable talking with about what you are exposed to whilst at work.

If you are lucky enough to be that trusted person being told this type of information, just simply listen. Intently listening and allowing that person to open up does more good then you could ever imagine.

Together we can make a difference in improving the mental health of our emergency service workers if we can first understand what they have to go through on any given day to keep the rest of society safe.

Regards

Stuart Rawlins
Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Mental Health & Employment | Educator |Speaker |Coach

The Therapy of ‘Giving Back’

The Therapy of ‘Giving Back’

When was the last time you ‘paid it forward’, ‘gave back’ or went out of your way to ‘help someone out’?

Well mine was on Thursday night 26th April when I hosted a ‘Men’s Only Mental Health Night’ in my local community.

The event did not sell anything, cost anything or preach anything; it simply created a safe environment where men could come along and hear from a few other blokes on how they have got through some tough times and how although those times were very challenging they managed to get through them and get on with life.

You see, for me volunteering and talking about my ‘lived experience‘ with mental health in order to hopefully help others actually also helps me feel better!

I am sure you may have heard about the benefits that volunteering has for our communities, particularly for those in our community who are in need of a hand up, but the benefits of volunteering or giving back for the person doing the giving is just as significant.

‘Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give’. Ben Carson

I first experienced the benefits of volunteering about three years ago when I started to volunteer once at week at my local Salvation Army when I came across an article in the paper about a schooling program (SCILS) for at risk kids that was being run at our local Salvation Army.

Not knowing if I could help out I simply turned up and offered to volunteer with doing resumes for the kids for free along with assisting one-on-one with their schooling lessons.
So off we went, once a week I would attend for an hour or so and act like a private tutor helping out with assignments, Maths and English lessons. Then one day one of the young girls asked If I would help her with a resume!

We made a deal, if she answered all of my questions I would write a complete resume for her, printout some copies on nice paper, and also put it on a memory stick for her. It took a few versions but we got it sorted and off she went with her new resume package.

The feeling of helping someone out made me feel alive inside, it also helped with my anxiety and depression as it gave me a feeling of purpose and of being needed. I had a skill that I could use to help someone else out and hopefully make a difference in their life.  To my surprise within a week the young girl had secured two jobs using her new resume, attitude and good old determination.

Each week I looked forward to my time with the kids, it allowed me to zone out of the other things in my life that were causing me stress. I would leave my sessions with the kids feeling relaxed, destressed and with an overall sense of calm.

Don’t just take my word for it, the Curtin University in Western Australia has published a report on ‘Volunteering for Happiness and Health’. Amongst other benefits the report stated that ‘61% of people who volunteer at least 5 times a year say volunteer work helps them feel less stressed’ and ‘volunteering presents a beneficial effect on depressive symptoms’.

A recent article published by ableto.com in March 2018 identified the below 7 mental health benefits of volunteering:

  1. Reduces stress
  2. Combats depression
  3. Prevents feelings of isolation
  4. Increases confidence
  5. Gives a sense of purpose and meaning
  6. Ignites passion
  7. Makes you happy

Giving Back is something that we can all do and the benefits are not limited to the people receiving the help!

So if you are struggling with ways to maintain or improve your mental health or simply have some spare time go out and do some volunteer work.

Your mental health and the community will both benefit from it.

 

Regards

Stuart Rawlins
Healthy Mind Healthy Future  
Mental Health & Employment | Educator |Speaker |Coach

How 8 weeks of work experience can improve your mental health and life

How 8 weeks of work experience can improve your mental health and life

This article refers to a time in 2010 and 2011 when I didn’t work for a ten month period whilst I dealt with a number of mental health conditions.

It also goes through how 8 weeks of ‘work experience‘ changed my life and improved my mental health.

During the ten months of not working I watched our bank balance getting lower and lower, believe me this is a good motivator to get back to work even when you are struggling with a number of mental health conditions.

I can remember thinking how can the meager WorkCover benefits I am receiving go down even further? I asked the consultant on the other end of the phone, how are we supposed to survive on this amount of money?

It was then I was reminded that WorkCover like most other benefits of its type are a mere stop-gap measure. Designed to sustain you until you can find your way back into the world of employment.

I can remember asking myself questions such as ‘What would I do, Who would want to take on a burnt out ex-detective who was still recovering from a number of mental health conditions?‘.

I must admit sitting at home for ten months had served its purpose. I had come to grips with and finally accepted that I was suffering from a number of mental health conditions. I also got myself to a position where I sought and found the right type of treatment that had started to get me going in the right direction back to better health and some form of normality.

So I made the call to my WorkCover case worker and told her something that I don’t think she had heard in quite a while. I told her I felt like I could go back to work, I didn’t know what type of work but I felt I was strong enough mentally to get back into something.

Inside I felt and knew I just needed it. I needed that feeling of getting up with a purpose everyday.

With a referral to an external company to see an Occupational Therapist who specialised in getting people like me back into the workforce I was one step closer to hopefully getting my life back on track.

On my first visit I mustered all of my courage and simply told him, I knew I couldn’t be a Police Officer anymore, those days were gone. But I felt it was time for me to get back to work and once again contribute to society and provide for my family.

That first visit was as scary as hell, putting myself out there for the first time since being off work, but I can tell you it was well worth it.

After getting professional medical treatment and assistance during my time away from the working world this activity was the next major step in my journey back to some type of normality.

I can still remember doing a barrage of questionnaires about my likes, dislikes, skills and qualifications to try to narrow down what I could and couldn’t do.

The consultant advised that I would hopefully get some ‘Host Employment‘ somewhere for 6 – 8 weeks and that if I showed that I had the capacity and ability to work that my benefits would be ceased at the end of that time.

This was irrespective of me attaining any paid work from the host employer at the end of that period.

WOW this certainly challenged me mentally once again.

Six to eight weeks of work experience so-to-speak and then irrespective of the outcome my benefits would be stopped. Talk about a motivator to find the right place and work my guts out hoping that they would give me a job at the end of it, or at least I could gain some new skills to help me get a job somewhere else.

I had been applying for jobs with no success for the previous few months whilst I was un-well. This was when I realised that I had just been throwing my same resume and covering letter at every job. Hoping the companies and recruiters would see that although I hadn’t addressed what they wanted for their candidate, I was still the right person for the job.

Take from me……… This approach does not work!

So off we went! The consultant started shopping my resume around to different companies. The carrot for the employer was that they did not have to pay me as I would still be receiving my benefits from WorkCover during this time.

After a few inquiries my lucky break came, a company who had taken a person previously on host employment agreed to meet with the consultant and myself to discuss some options. I was so excited and scared at the same time as I knew that if I started there that my benefits would be stopped in 6 – 8 weeks.

It was like I was entering the workforce for the very first time…. again!

After a quick meeting the company representative agreed to take me on and advised me that I would do some special projects for him and simply help out in the safety department.

This meeting triggered some not-so-nice thoughts inside me as well, but I knew I had to work through them, I just had to. Thoughts like what would I say when people asked why I was there, what would the manager tell other people I was doing, what if I wasn’t up to it?

This is when I used some coping mechanisms taught to me by my treating psychologist. Things like:

  • Positive Psychology (focusing on the things I could do rather than what I could not)
  • Increasing my amount of exercise, intense exercise
  • Talking to my wife and psychologist about my journey ahead and how to get through it
  • Chunking it all down into small pieces (Taking it one day at a time, one task at a time, one little task)
  • Having ‘My story’ sorted and in place so I could answer any of those uncomfortable questions if asked

I didn’t know it at the time but getting back into the workforce even in a work-experience context was satisfying some of the 6 x basic needs in life.

You see it is said that we all have 6 x basic needs in life. These 6 x needs are what make us tick and are made up of the below factors:

  1. Certainty
  2. Uncertainty/Variety
  3. Significance
  4. Love & Connection
  5. Growth
  6. Contribution

Even though it was my previous work that caused my mental health conditions, it was work that I was actually craving.

I was missing that sense of certainty that comes with a steady paying job, knowing when and what I was getting paid so we could plan for the future, or at least the next power bill!

I was also missing the sense of significance that comes with getting up everyday and going to work. The inner feeling that also comes with being a valued part of a team and getting that sense of meaning and purpose was something that I was craving. I wanted to belong!

You see although I needed time out from the working world to heal I realised that I also needed work once again as a part of my recovery process. I needed work to close that loop that would see me re-enter society and feel like I had a purpose in life again (Contribution).

How did it all go?

Well after overcoming my fears of what people would think and how I would answer, it actually went very well. I stuck to my plan and once again felt like I was part of society, like I was contributing to something.

It also provided me with an answer to that dreadful question we get asked when we bump into friends or acquaintances at the plaza or BBQ.

You know the one that starts with ‘So what are you doing these days?‘.
It allowed me answer that question with my own slight variance of ‘I am just doing some contract work for…..’

That eight weeks made me feel half human again, I got up with a purpose every day for the first time in ten months. I made every day count and gave my all.

The end result was that I was offered a full time job at the end of that eight weeks and kissed my life of living on WorkCover benefits goodbye.

It was a major turning point in my recovery and journey back to better health. It also taught me a number of things that I now value very much, things like:

What you do for work does not define who you are in life, how you treat others does. Remember kindness costs nothing!

The importance of keeping an open mind when it comes to opportunities, because where one door closes another will often open

Have a red hot GO, even if you are crapping yourself and full of self-doubt. Just break it all down to little steps and keep moving forward, keep getting up out of that bed every day. You will surprise yourself with what you are capable of
over time

Never underestimate the value of work of any kind, paid or free. The sense and feeling of belonging, certainty and contribution is more important than most realise

Everybody goes through struggles in life, some more than others but we all do. What matters is your resilience and tenacity to keep moving in a forward direction. The tough times won’t last forever and you will get through them

If you are already in work remember you can improve your mental health by giving back. By doing volunteer or community work and giving back to those in need, can give you a great sense of well being and achievement.

If you are unemployed liaise with Centrelink,  Employment Agencies or simply get your resume together and get out there and walk into some businesses and ask to do some free work-experience. Go-on give it a crack!

Remember never underestimate the importance of work, paid or free and what it can do for your health, the community and your inner-self.

Regards

Stuart Rawlins
Healthy Mind Healthy Future  
Mental Health & Employment | Educator |Speaker |Coach

The Hardest Knock

The Hardest Knock

Cruising around the streets that back onto the water I could hear the mumble of the Police radio in the back ground, my ears acutely aware of my own car call sign should it be suddenly called out for a job.

But on this occasion my latest assignment didn’t come over the normal radio channel for all to hear it was my personal phone that rang. Immediately noticing that it is a blocked number calling me I instinctively knew that it was most likely a sensitive job that I was about to receive from the Police Communications Operator ringing me.

After a career as a Detective which included 3 years working on the Daniel Morcombe murder investigation I received a promotion to the rank of Sergeant back into the blue uniform.

Being out on the road policing at the coal-face is where it all happens, as a Sgt with a background as a Detective I found it a great time to impart some of my enthusiasm and knowledge into the junior constables I found myself constantly being partnered with.

As the information of our next job was relayed to me I knew why it had to be given by phone and why I had personally received the call.

It was a Sudden Death message, but not one of the ones that you would normally get.

Giving death messages is something that you never get used to doing and something that as a reader of this article I hope you never have to receive.

Having easily give in-excess of a dozen sudden death messages in my 13 year career I can say that it never got any easier the more you did. Everyone has a different set of circumstances and none are easy for either party.

How will they take it? What exact words will I use? Will they have someone there to comfort them or will it just be us? I need to get into the house and get them to an area where they can sit down in case they faint or pass-out. Remembering to avoid using certain strong words like killed or dead can be harder than you think.

I always preferred to use softer phrases like ‘XXX was involved in a car accident and they were quite badly injured and unfortunately passed away from their injuries’. I found that using this type of language was often less confronting for the person receiving the message.

This one was particularly disturbing as it involved advising a family that their daughter had died suddenly at the hands of someone who was supposed to be in love with her, her boyfriend.

Stopping and pausing for a minute to prepare I understood why I was given the job to pass the faithful message to the family. Having previously arrested murderers I knew exactly what the forward processes were, not just for the coming days but for the following months and years possibly, as the matter progressed through the court system.

With a firm knock on the door it was swung open in an instant. I could literally see the dreaded look on the mans face as he spotted my formal Police night hat tucked under my arm as the door opened. One of the subtle and restful early warning signs used by Police to forewarn the other party that this was not a happy visit.

I could see his mind racing with scenarios of what had happened and to which family member it had happened to.

As I asked if we could sit down and have a talk I took a slow deep breath and I broke the horrible news. The horrible news that there had been a domestic disturbance at their daughters house in Brisbane and that as a result she had been assaulted, and unfortunately she had not survived the assault.

Their immediate distress turned to anger as they knew even before I could tell them, who was responsible for their daughters death. They went on to tell me that they had warned her of him and she was in the process of finding another place to live so she could leave him.

Unfortunately it was all to late. 

The level of grief that overcame the family was distressing to say the least, as they started asking and blaming themselves around what they should have done better and earlier to get their daughter out of her abusive relationship.

Sitting their watching I felt  such a sense of helplessness, no words can comfort people at time like this. Their world has just changed forever and not in a good way.

What was comforting for me was that I had the ability to be able to provide the family with all the answers they needed. Not just about the immediate formalities around their daughters sudden death but also what lied ahead with respect to the court process, what it involved and how long it may take. What they could expect to happen and how they would be involved at different times.

I could feel the connection I had with them, the sense of relief they felt that someone could answer what they perceived as the strange and odd questions they wanted to ask in their time of need and desperation. This was to be the longest time during my service as a Police Officer I would spend with a family when giving a sudden death message.

It was certainly worth it.

As I provided them with the details of the Detectives investigating the case I helped them gather together some belongings in preparation for the impending trip to the Brisbane morgue to formally identify their daughters body.

After providing them with my personal contact details for use at anytime in the future it was my time to go. So with a hug to each of them I was gone and back on the road ready to head to the next job. My thoughts were with them for the rest of my shift, thinking about what it would be like for them to have to make that drive down to Brisbane.

The heartbreaking task of going to a morgue and look at their daughters battered and bruised body.

I did think about that family a lot as I often, and still do to this day drive right passed their front door quite often.

Fast forward quite a few years and I was walking through the Sunshine Plaza shopping centre located at Maroochydore. Having lived on the Sunshine Coast for most of my life it is quite common for me to say hello to quite a few people when I am out and about.

As I was walking along I noticed a man walking towards me and he was making direct eye contact with me. As we got closer he said hello with an expression on his face that he certainly knew who I was.

I stopped and said hello and with a confused look on my face I ask him where we knew each other from.

He proceeded to remind me that I was the one that knocked on his door years earlier to tell him that his daughter had been murdered.

He told me that my face was one that he would remember for the rest of his life. How my time with them that day was so important for him and his family in their time of need.

As soon as he mentioned how he knew me I immediately remembered who he was and we chatted about how things unfolded in the years following that terrible day.

As I shook his hand and we parted ways my wife casually asked me where I knew him from, to which I had to tell her that quite a few years earlier I to give him the news that his daughter had been murdered.

Part of me felt terrible that I had not remembered his face straight away. I can certainly say that I have never forgotten knocking on his door that day or any of the other death messages that I have given.

Policing can sometimes be a thankless job, but it also a very rewarding one as well. Knowing the positive impact I had on that family in one of their darkest hours is something that I will never forget.

Unfortunately I will also not forget all of the other sudden death message I gave during my 13 year Police career and how each one of them seemed to take that little more out me.

If you are unfortunate enough to receive one of those knocks on your door, please don’t be too harsh or judgmental if the person giving you the terrible news uses a wrong word or seems a little bit cold or distant.  As sometimes the person giving the message is just as upset as you, they may just not be showing it.

Remember we are all humans!

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Mental Health | Educator |Speaker |Writer

What is normal and who is the judge of normal?

What is normal and who is the judge of normal?

Normal, Am I normal? Are you normal? Who is the judge of what is normal? And what does being normal mean?

As I look around in the Brisbane Airport waiting for my flight I can see plenty of people who appear normal, sitting drinking their coffee, chatting with friends or family, looking comfortable in a crowd, perfectly assimilating into society.

Are they all normal and am I the odd-one out?

One thing I have learned from my own mental health journey is, that looks can be deceiving. Things may appear normal from the outside but you can never know what someone has or is currently going through.

People all around us are struggling just to get through each minute of the day, struggling to keep it together, struggling to look and act normal.

Why do I know a bit about this? Because I too have sat there looking out at the world trying to look and appear normal. Hoping that no-one would notice that I was struggling like crap just to keep it all together.

Not knowing how to get through the day or what I was doing with my mess of a life.

After going through this hell personally I now make it my business to help others get through their tough times, and let me tell you, there is no real guideline for what normal is.

Normal is yours to make, it is what you are comfortable with and you are the judge of your own normality no-one else. Yes, you read it right, you are your judge of what’s is normal in your life nobody else.

Always remember my normal is different to your normal which is different to the next persons normal. And you know what?

That is perfectly ok!

It is ok not to feel ok sometimes, not to know all the answers, not to want to talk to anyone for a bit or be in control of where you are in your life right now.

Accepting that sometimes you will have interludes in your life where you are not totally in control of what is happening is ok. But it is important to foster the belief that things will change, things will get better and all you must do to facilitate this is to keep getting up every day and putting one foot in front of the other no matter how small the steps are.

Three steps forward, eights steps back, it doesn’t matter. Turning up for life each day and taking those small steps will get you there eventually. Speaking from personal experience I can vouch for this type of approach and its benefits.

No, it’s not easy but it works.

Eventually you will get through it and you will get to your version or normal. Will it be the normal you once had, the normal you experienced before the event that changed your life? Maybe not, but that is not always such a bad thing. Sure, the new version of you may be different to the old version, but it is still you deep down just with some extra life experiences.

Had I not have been through my own mental health challenges I would not be in the position I am today to assist others. I am not the same person I was before, but I have learned to accept that and get on with my life.

We need to stop being so concerned about putting on a normal front for other people, because I can assure you that if you scratched the surface with the large majority of those perceived normal people sitting around you, you would be quite surprised.

Current statistics tell us that each year 1 in 5 Australians will experience a mental illness. So have a look around next time you are sitting at a coffee shop and do the numbers, there is a strong possibility that quite a few people in the crowd are doing it tough and simply trying to appear normal.

My suggestion, the sooner we as society can accept that there is no set mould for being normal the sooner we will fit more comfortably in our own skins and with our own situation.

I have let go of the obsession of appearing or being normal for the sake of others. I no longer look at people and judge them about being normal even if they appear from the outside to have it all together, because looks can be deceiving.

Isn’t about time we all stopped trying so hard to appear normal? Because normal is boring!

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Mental Health | Educator |Speaker |Writer

So what does being Mentally Healthy mean?

So what does being Mentally Healthy mean?

Mental Health is a term that is being used more and more frequently as the world starts to grasp how important this topic actually is.
But what does it mean to be mentally healthy?
Do a quick search of the internet including my own website and you will see various different ways to improve your mental health. They often include things such as:

  • Seeking medical assistance
  • Talking about your issues
  • Exercise
  • Asking for help
  • Stay away from alcohol and drugs
  • Getting enough sleep

But I pose this question, ‘What does it mean to be mentally healthy, and how do you know if you are there yet?’
My answer in the article below is not from a course I have done, a book I have read or a university degree. No, it is from my own personal mental health journey with PTSD, Depression and Anxiety.
When I think of being mentally healthy, two words really resonate with me; Acceptance and Ownership.

First let me clarify that the already mentioned activities to maintain and improve your mental health are vitally important. But in this article I want to go that bit further and talk about being mentally healthy.
What that phrase means, and what it looks like, and no it is not a time in your life when everything is all beer-and-skittles.

For me the words Acceptance and Ownership are what I associate with being mentally healthy, not because when you have this everything is perfect, no not at all. Quite the contrary, I don’t believe that you have to be completely over of a mental illness or condition to be mentally healthy.

For me being mentally healthy has a different meaning.
It marked a point in my life when I accepted and took ownership that I do have  several mental illness conditions that I will probably deal with for the rest of my life in some way, shape or form.

But at that point in my life I accepted that and took ownership of it.
I accepted that having a number of mental health conditions or illnesses is not the end of the world and that I am not alone.

I accepted and took ownership that at certain times in my life the symptoms associated with these conditions would rare their ugly heads and test me once again. But that I am ready for that and all that comes with it.

But I identified that I was at a point in my life that I could accept that this was the case and I could own it. I could identify that I do have triggers and that I do know what they are and how to deal with them.
I accepted that having a number of mental health conditions was only as limiting as I let it be.
I accepted that it was not my fault that I have these conditions, but there is no use getting bitter and twisted on how I came to have them.
I took ownership of knowing that I was in control of taking action in my life when I was exposed to incidents or things that may trigger symptoms.
But most importantly for me I accepted that having a number of mental health conditions didn’t make me broken or a second class citizen.

Yes, I still have a lot to offer this world and my life’s purpose has only just begun. And funnily enough my life’s purpose has been born out of actually having been diagnosed with a number of mental health conditions. So if I dig that bit deeper, something good has actually come out of being exposed to all those not-so-nice incidents as a Police Officer.
I am now using my exposure and experiences with mental health conditions to help others.
Something good has come from something not so good!
Accepting and taking ownership of my mental health conditions allowed me to be at peace that things weren’t always going to be perfect. That I would possibly have struggles again at some point in my life. Being in this position changed one major thing in my life, it allowed me to come out of the shadows and talk, write and educate as many people in this world that I can about mental health.
It allowed me to say with confidence when I was asked that, yes I have struggled with my mental health, but you know I am OK with that.

The inner peace and self-satisfaction that comes with accepting that I have a number of mental health conditions, and that I have control over how I deal with them is when I became mentally healthy.

So next time you hear someone talking about being mentally healthy, don’t think it means everything has to be rainbows and butterflies.

What is should mean is that you are at a point where you are comfortable enough to identify there maybe issues, but that you are mentally healthy enough to accept and take ownership of them.

Being mentally healthy is more about being well enough and in a position to take the front foot with any issues, then having everything completely sorted and planned.
So take a moment to reflect on what I have just said. Are you mentally healthy?

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Mental Health | Educator |Speaker |Writer

HMHF keep your mind healthy 1 HMHF keep your mind healthy 4 HMHF keep your mind healthy 3 HMHF keep your mind healthy 2

One shift in the life of a Police Officer

One shift in the life of a Police Officer

This article is just the tip of the iceberg of some jobs that Police Officers can experience in a typical shift. To show you more of what I mean, this is a recount of my first shift as a Constable in the Queensland Police Service on Monday the 8th of December, 1997.

Get to the station early, get my kit together, book out all the equipment for the shift, find my Field Training Officer (FTO) and then do a bit of a driving tour around Redcliffe and get to know the place.  That was my initial plan for my first shift as a fresh-faced 22-year-old Constable.

It took all of about one minute for that plan to be shattered!

Standing in the ‘Constables Day Room’ simply waiting for my FTO to collect me like a kid starting his first day at school I was feeling slightly proud of myself for managing to find, and book out all of the required equipment for my first shift.

All of a sudden, a Sergeant burst into the room and with a deep bellowing pommy voice he screamed ‘Who is on day-shift?’. My FTO appeared and nominated us as the day crew. We were told there was a serious traffic crash just outside our Police division, and were then tasked to attend the Redcliffe Hospital Code 2, and collect a Trauma Team, and get them to the crash scene as fast as possible.

As fast as possible, Code 2? WOW this meant my first job was a lights and siren job. How awesome was this I can remember thinking to myself. Having a Code 2 job as my first ever job meant we were going lights and sirens all the way. I was pumped!

We threw our kit in the Police car and off we went up to the hospital and collected the two-person Trauma Team who were waiting in the Emergency Section.

Being a First-Year Constable my job was to operate the Police radio and work the lights and sirens whilst my FTO drove. Easy, except when I looked at the control box for the lights and sirens there was nothing to tell you what switch did what.

It was simply a black box with a series of black switches that moved forwards and backwards, each making the lights and sirens do something different. While I played with them trying to work out which way to flick them to get everything working my partner gave me a lesson on how to drive at 160klms/hr in an 80klm/hr zone in morning peak hour traffic.

Trying to give the Police Communications Room updates on the radio was harder than I thought. What do I say, when do I say it? This is so different from when I was at the academy. My mouth was dry and the words simply were not coming out, so my partner took over that role as well as driving at speeds up to 160klms/hr.

I could hear some groans from the back seat so I turned to see the two Trauma Team members being flung around in the back of the car. They were not enjoying the high-speed driving combined with the ducking and weaving around cars and the changing of lanes and decided it was time to finally put on their seat belts.

I can remember thinking, I’ve done the training at the academy for this. I had my high-viz vest with me, I am sure I can direct some traffic. How hard can it be? I have got this!

As we made our way to up to the crash site I could see a car had clearly crashed in to a telegraph pole and there were people working on the car.

The Trauma Team members were literally white in the face after their back-seat racing car experience. They proceeded to tell us that even though they had no way back, they were definitely not getting back in a car with us and that they would find their own way back to the hospital.

With my high-viz vest and my Police hat on I found myself standing in the middle of the roadway just near the crashed car. It was hot and although it was only mid-morning I could feel the sun burning me on my legs through my long blue pants.

I could see the thick shiny black polish on the tips of my boots and feel the heat from the road radiating up through them onto the soles of my feet. The sweat was running down the inside the back of my shirt because the high-viz vest I was wearing was acting like a jumper.

It was then when my partner appeared with two young children and told me to stay there and mind them until another Ambulance arrived. It was at this time he also told me that their mother had passed away in the crash and her body was still trapped in the car.

This is when my world changed!

My job was to mind the two young kids who were bleeding out of their nose and ears and keep them occupied until another Ambulance could arrive to treat them. They were clearly in shock and had no idea that their mum had died in the crash.

All of my training at the academy had not prepared me for this. How do you occupy two young kids who are in shock and continually asking for their mum? At 22 years of age, I simply had no-idea and was not prepared at all.

Seeing their mum’s body being removed from the crumpled car whilst trying to continually talk to them so they would not see it as well, was heart breaking.

My voice quivered and my eyes teared up whilst talking to them, as I kept telling them over and over again, that it was all going to be OK. But I knew it wasn’t, two young kids had just lost their mum forever.

What the hell had I signed up to, is what was running through my head as I wiped the tears from my eyes and handed the two young kids over to the Ambulance officers. We didn’t practice this at the academy.

With the kids safely in the back of the Ambulance our role in that job was over and it was time to head back.

As we made our way back to our Station we got a call on the Police radio to divert and assist the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB) with the search of a car.

With the adrenalin still pumping we rocked up to a house to find two burly Detectives dismantling the inside of a new hire-car with their bare hands.  They had intercepted a car load of professional drug-runners who were suspected of using new hire cars to transport hard drugs such as amphetamines, cocaine and also handguns.

These were not your usual run-of-the-mill criminals, they were cunning, hardened and hated the Police with a passion. With my bright new uniform, equipment, and fresh face, I stood out as a newby a mile away.

So, came the taunts and threats to test me out to see if I could hold my mettle amongst real criminals in the real world.

What an eye-opener, I had no idea what I was looking for as I had only seen what amphetamines and cocaine looked like in photographs. After finding a heap of used and new syringes and some strange syrup in a jar (That’s another story), we transported two of the drug-runners back to the Police Station.

After finishing at the Station, we were then sent straight to a domestic violence incident where a male person had kicked his pregnant partner in the stomach.

Once at the house we were straight in through the front door, and after a brief scuffle we had the male person in handcuffs. His injured partner was ushered into the back of an Ambulance to be taken to hospital to be checked out.

Back at the station we interviewed the man about why he had kicked his obviously pregnant partner in the stomach. His reason, was that he had a gut full of drugs and that he was arguing with his partner about spending the rest of their food money on more drugs. He then proceeded to tell us that he had shared the initial drugs with his pregnant partner and that it was not enough and that he wanted more.

With him safely locked up in the watchouse we proceeded to ring the emergency section at the hospital and give them the news that their pregnant patient was also drug dependent.

What a cracking first ever shift as a Police Officer, surely this was a once off and things would be different on my second day?

How wrong I was!

This amazing, exhilarating and sometimes downright life threatening ride went on for 13 more years until my brain could no longer handle it anymore.

My nerves could no longer take the extreme rushes of adrenalin that comes with chasing armed offenders or the sadness associated with searching for body parts or giving death messages.

Police Officers can, and do experience on any given day similar and much worse situations than I have explained in this article. This article simply outlined what I experienced on my first ever shift as a Police Officer.

Police Officers are human beings that deal with atrocities that most people will only ever read about or see on television.

The perspective that I have commonly used for friends and family is that Police deal with the bottom 10% of the population 90% of the time, and the other 90% of the population only 10% of the time.

Furthermore, most normal everyday people will never deal with that bottom 10% of the population unless they break into your house or steal your car.

Policing is a hard and for most times an unforgiving job, but none the less it is a job that has to be done.

I hope this article opens your mind and heart to some of the challenges that our Police face everyday, and how these challenges can have detrimental effects on their mental health.
Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Mental Health | Educator | Speaker | Writer

Who is really watching your children – Gaining their trust!

Who is really watching your children – Gaining their trust!

This article is actually a DRAFT chapter called ‘Gaining their trust’ from my upcoming book ‘Who is really watching your children’.

This book contains information that is not watered down and not from a magazine, but directly from the mouths of the peadophiles themselves.

I learnt this information after befriending peadophiles from all over Australia, whilst being part of the principal investigative team on the Daniel Morcombe murder investigation for three years.

Yes, befriending peadophiles as disgusting as it sounds was something I had a knack for, and something that yielded some amazing but very disturbing information.

Please Note – All names have been changed in this article to protect all victims and unfortunately to also protect the person who provided the information.

Gaining their trust
As we pulled up outside it looked like any other block of units in the area, a small complex in an L-shape with two levels.

With the anticipation of what was about to happen the rush of adrenalin started and my mind was full of questions. Was he going to be home? How was he going to react to our visit? Could we get him to talk? Do his neighbours know about him and what he has done? I mean what he has really done, not the cover story he has probably sold them about where he has been for the last ten years.

Are there kids living in this complex? My god I hope not!

As I surveyed the complex from the car it was quite apparent that finding Lance’s unit and getting to it without being picked as Detectives was simply not going to happen. Dressed in business clothes, my partner and I were going to stand out like the proverbial. We needed to be prepared and know where we were going, and head straight there with purpose, no distractions.

As I continued to look at the complex from within the car trying to work out the unit numbering system to aid us in a quick and direct entry, people meandered around coming and going. Thank god no-one had really taken any notice of the Detective’s car parked on the roadway.

With drilled pursuit rims and the standard extra aerial for the Police radio it stood out about as much as we did. Either no-one noticed or it was such a common occurrence seeing a Police car at the complex they simply didn’t care.

Looking at the rusted handrails and spotting the concrete external staircase was a dead giveaway that this place was certainly not sporting a lift. By this time, I had worked out that Lance’s unit was on the second level, just a few metres from the top of the stair case.

Time to re-read my intelligence file on Lance to make sure I was familiar with everything about him. We needed to ensure we knew everything, where he had done time, who his associates were (inside and outside of jail), what he had done time for and when he had gotten out.

We needed to come from a position of knowledge from the get-go. Lance needed to have the impression that we knew everything about him. This would allow myself and my partner to be in a position of power from the outset, allowing us to cut through the bullshit initial story he would give.

Believe me when I say that he would give an initial bullshit story, they always did.

You see Lance had just recently been released from prison, he had done 10 years straight for sodomising young boys. Yes, 10 years straight without parole! Now to put that into perspective think about the jail sentences you see and hear about in the media, and how little real jail time people get sentenced to these days?

Now think about what atrocities Lance would have had to have committed to get a non-parole period of 10 years? For the protection of Lance’s victims (not Lance) I won’t go into details for any of them, but I am sure you get the picture that Lance was not an upstanding citizen of his community.

With a head full of information on Lance and the adrenalin pumping we were out of the car and heading straight for his unit on the second level. Up the stairs with no distractions and within a minute we were outside his front door ready to ‘pop in for a chat’.

A quick listen for any inside movement and we were knocking on his front door, the long drive to see Lance had ended. It was business time! We needed to talk to Lance and find out what he knew about Daniel Morcombe’s disappearance directly or indirectly.

As the door opened we were met by an ageing overweight man wearing glasses and sporting matching tracksuit top and bottoms, Lance was well groomed and quietly spoken. His unit was very small and old, but extremely neat and tidy with a feeling of organisation that reeked of someone who had done time in the armed forces or prison. We knew which one it was for Lance.

As we entered his unit Lance knew exactly who we were, his background and our dress code left no room for chance that we were anyone else but the Police.

You can read their body language and the expression on their faces in circumstances like this, it screams of ‘What are they after, what story should I give them, what do they know?’

As I walked into his unit I saw several things that grabbed my attention, things that were just not right, they were out of place and immediately raised the hairs on the back of my neck.

Just inside Lance’s door was an extremely large teddy bear, when I say extremely large I mean this thing was the size of five-year old kid and twice as wide. It was not hidden away in a secret spot or a cupboard, no it was the first thing you saw when you walked into Lance’s unit.

The next thing I saw was several remote-control cars and buggies on shelves and the floor, once again not hidden at all, they were all in plain view. As we sat at the kitchen table it was apparent that Lance’s unit was full of kids toys and apparel.

Why was this so concerning? For two reasons. First, Lance had no kids, no grand kids, no valid reason for having kid’s toys. Secondly, as already mentioned Lance had only very recently been released from serving 10 years’ jail for sodomising young boys.

At the time of seeing this I had no kids of my own but I was sickened to the bottom of my stomach, I found myself thinking how does this work. How do you get out of prison for committing such horrific crimes against children and within such a short period of time go and acquire a large amount of kid’s toys? There was no other reason other than the obvious, Lance knew it and so did we.

Detachment is a technique practiced by Police. Detaching yourself emotionally from what you are doing, seeing and hearing is a coping mechanism commonly used by Police Officers when they are dealing with horrific incidents or people.

When dealing with Lance I too had to detach myself from what I was feeling, seeing and hearing, otherwise all the valuable information would have been lost.

As we questioned Lance within a short period of time it was apparent that he was not involved in the disappearance of Daniel Morcombe.

Then the bullshit story about why he had the toys came rolling out with excuse after excuse. We weren’t buying it, and he knew it, so outcome Lance’s Plan B.

Lance’s Plan B was common with some paedophiles and it involved the art of deflection. Basically, by providing you with information about what other paedophiles were doing they would attempt to deflect the attention away from themselves and the crimes that they are committing.

The old look over there and over there but not here trick!

I knew this was Lance’s angle before he even opened his mouth and started offering up the information.

But what I wasn’t ready for was the amount of information that I would also garnish from Lance over the coming months about how some paedophiles operated and about how he used to operate himself. All spoken about in the past tense of course, so as not too implicate himself with anything he may be doing now.

Why? Because Lance wanted me to like him, he wanted me to believe that all of his bad deeds were behind him and he was fully reformed. Not likely!

The following information you are about to read is not politically correct, it has not been watered down and that is for a reason.  That reason is so that people can get the real and raw information direct from the paedophiles themselves, about how they operate. How they target children, and manage to lure them away from their parent or parents with their full blessing in-order to eventually molest them.

You see Lance worked out some time ago that he didn’t have to go far to find his next victim, for him it was a mere stroll out on the footpath to sit and watch the day go by, sitting at the bus stop or a nearby park and just watching people, in full view.

Lance was specifically looking for the low socioeconomic single mum with three to four kids. He would look for a family that had a child who was special needs. He was also looking for the family that for whatever reason did not have a car and were having to rely on public transport to do things like their grocery shopping.

Yes, as disgusting as it is, Lance was preying on people in his community that were vulnerable and at breaking point. People whose normal barriers may be lowered because of the predicament they found themselves in, and this was normally associated with money and their lack of it.

After watching for a bit Lance would approach the mum and ask to help-out with carrying their groceries home from the bus stop or the park.

On the way home Lance would start up some small talk about how he was retired and had no real family of his own and that he lived in the local area. Being an older man he would explain how he loved the idea of grand kids and had a lot of time on his hands, with not much to do.

All the while Lance was paying extra attention to the child with special needs. This extra attention was on purpose so the mother could see that he not only had an interest in her children, but that he had an extra interest in her child who took up most of her time, and who was sometimes the hardest to handle out of her four children.

Within a few not-so coincidental encounters with the family Lance would find himself in a position where he would suggest to the mother that he would be happy to mind the lady’s special needs child whilst she went and did the grocery shopping.

A win win situation was the approach, Lance would get his grand kid time and the mother of four would have a much easier time doing the grocery shopping with her three other children who did not have special needs.
Especially when they had to do it all using public transport.

This is when Lance would make sure that the first few times he minded the child, that they had fun and that there was no issue if mum’s shopping took longer than first planned. This was another ploy to break down any potential barriers the mum may have that something was not right.

After a few times the mum would almost become indebted to Lance with how thankful she was that he helped them out when she had to go and do the dreaded shopping.

This was the turning point in the relationship and when Lance would start the next phase of his plan. This phase would put him onto a path where he could abuse the child at will, all while mum was at the shops buying food for her family.

This is where Lance would start to shower the child with gifts and toys each time he came to Lance’s place to be looked after. The plan was simple, the child would associate going to Lance’s place with fun, excitement, toys and games. Often the type of toys that the child did not have at home, as their family simply could not afford them.

With this part of the plan firmly in place Lance would then move to the part that he anticipated the most, molesting the child.

The methods that Lance and others used to keep their victims from talking or getting someone to believe their stories when they did have the courage to talk will be shared in my upcoming book ‘Who is really watching your children’.

My book will also provide in-depth information on a number of other techniques and activities used by pedophiles, along with the different types of peadophiles themselves.

If you would like to keep updated with my book progress please head to Healthy Mind Healthy Future and subscribe.

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Strategies to improve your Mental Health

5 FREE ways to improve your Mental Health

5 FREE ways to improve your Mental Health

We live in a world where ‘nothing is for FREE‘, I was once told. While this may be true, when it comes to improving your mental health there are a number of avenues and activities available to you, and they don’t cost a cent. Just your time!

In this article, I will explore some FREE options that you can utilise to assist in improving your mental health, or at least to give yourself a bit of time-out from the stresses of life.

Mental Health Plan referral from your Doctor/GP
From personal experience speaking to your Doctor/GP is a great start, and an avenue that can possibly open up some free assistance for you straight away.

If you feel you can talk, even a little bit to your Doctor, please do so, and ask them if you qualify for a ‘Mental Health Plan’. A mental health plan allows for your Doctor to provide you with a referral letter that gives you access to the services of a Psychologist for around 4 x visits, and sometimes up to 10 visits.

How does this work? Well it is heavily subsided by the government and in some cases, you will get your visits for FREE!

The next step is to do a bit of research and locate a Psychologist that you are comfortable with, and also one that may be able to just accept the subsidised payment from the government as a part of your mental health plan.
FREE sessions with a Psychologist may just be the kick-start you need to get your mental health back on-track.

Back-To-Basics = Family Time
I know that I spend so much of my day either talking on my phone or surfing the net on my phone/iPad/Laptop trying to keep up with what is happening on social media.

In 2016, we took our first overseas family holiday where we did a full round trip of New Zealand’s beautiful South Island. Why am I mentioning this when this article is about ‘Improving your Mental Health for FREE’?

Well, forget that we went to New Zealand and consider the fact that I left my mobile phone behind in Australia for the whole 2 x weeks we were away. For a full read of that article click on the following link ‘Holidaying for Mental Health’.

You don’t have to go on an overseas holiday to leave your phone or iPad behind. Try little trips or activities with your family, loved ones or animals such as:

  • A walk around the block to your nearest park or a walk on the beach or in the bush;
  • Playing in the back yard;
  • Building Lego’s with your children or working on a car or motorbike;
  • Any type of physical work where you can utilise a ‘little helper’, even if the little helper makes the task take twice as long;
  • Simply turn your phone or other electronic device off, put it away and go and do something with someone you love.

Something that I found out by doing this is that the world will not end, Facebook/Instagram/Twitter will all still be there when you get back, and your kids, family, friends, or animals will appreciate your full attention for once.

Exercise
I am sure that we all know that exercise is good for our mental health, so this is nothing new. But don’t think you have to pay money to go to a gym to do some exercise.

Exercise is FREE, we are only bound by the constraints of our mind when it comes to thinking of how and where we can exercise to improve our mental health.

Whether it is running up and down a set of stairs at the local shopping centre multi-level car park or running laps around the streets where you live, exercise is an option that is always available to us all.

Remember, intense exercise is great for releasing those endorphin’s that help you feel a whole lot better!

Most importantly exercise costs nothing, it is FREE.

Relaxing the Mind, Body, and Soul
These are three of my favourite things to do and they are FREE, FREE, FREE.

Ocean Gazing – If you can access the ocean or even the water in general than this is a great way to relax your mind. Simply find a quiet spot, sit down and stare at the ocean for about 45mins.

Studies have shown that the ocean has some amazing calming properties, particularly when you are able to stare at the waves rolling in. Forget the studies if you like, I can personally vouch that this is something that I do, and it is very calming. And yes, all electronic devices need to be turned off to get the best out of this free activity.

Yoga – Put simply, Yoga is amazing! It is not only a fantastic exercise in itself, but it is so good for getting back in touch with your inner-soul via breathing techniques.

The best thing is that Yoga doesn’t have to always cost money! Yes, it is great to go to a class run by a professional Yoga instructor, I know I have done this myself in my article ‘Yoga for Mental Health’.

Basic free Yoga positions and short classes can be easily accessed on-line using Google, yes Google is your friend when it comes to sourcing FREE stuff.

Meditation – The same as Yoga, Meditation is a great way to relax your mind, body and soul but once again it doesn’t have to cost money.

There are several phone apps out there like Headspace or Calm that let you access 10 x free Meditation sessions for free on your mobile device.
If you only have a desktop computer then once again use my favourite friend, Mr Google!

If you don’t have your own computer or access to the internet, then book a free session at your local Community Centre or Library. When you book your session ask them if they have a headset or headphones that can be used for FREE.

Then use your FREE computer session to Google ‘FREE Meditation’ and you are on your way to relaxing you mind, body and soul – For FREE!

I hope this article has assisted you in finding new and FREE ways to improve your mental health.

If you have any others FREE ways to improve your mental health I would love to hear about them. Either leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail at stuart@healthymindhealthyfuture.com.

For further articles on Mental Health head to Healthy Mind Healthy Future.

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Strategies to improve your Mental Health

Moving beyond the stigma – Are we ready to make Mental Health mainstream!

Moving beyond the stigma – Are we ready to make Mental Health mainstream!

Is it just me, or are we experiencing an increase in the number of people coming out and telling the world that they are suffering or previously suffered from a mental illness?

Whether it’s a sports star who has fallen from grace in the public eye or a high profile media personality having a breakdown, I believe we are seeing more and more information in the media about people suffering from mental health conditions.

So I ask the question, are we ready to make mental health a mainstream health issue or are we still hiding behind the stigma that comes with it?

From personal experience I believe that society has come a long way in the last twenty years, in particular the last 2 – 3 years.  But I don’t think we are ready just yet to embrace mental illness as a mainstream health condition.

I feel if we were, we would not have publicly hounded and invaded the privacy of one of our greatest long distance swimmers during their recent time of need.

We do see a lot of talk and information on social media, but more action is needed to back it up, and in my mind actions speak louder than words. As they say, ‘People look at what you do not what you say’!

To explain my above statement about the change in the last 2 – 3 years, I need to take you back to 1997 when as a 22-year-old I made the decision to join the Queensland Police Service.

WOW, what a life changing decision, the fun, the danger, the exhilaration of being in a car chase (yes, we used to be allowed to chase criminals in cars back then, we even caught a few!), all with a ‘toughen-up she’ll be right mate’ approach to dealing with the atrocities seen sometimes on a daily basis.

The thought never entered my mind in 1997 that some 13 years later, being exposed to all the horrific events would eventually cause me to leave the service, simply because I could not take anymore. Not only that I couldn’t take anymore, but I could no longer hide my symptoms from my Police family on a daily basis.

I can vaguely recall the stigma that was attached to those who left the service due to mental illness back in the late nineties. Not much was said and they just disappeared quietly and quickly and were never heard of again.

Fast-forward to around 2008 – 2010 and I was one of those people myself. Hiding the symptoms of my mental illness firstly from myself, then my family and friends and lastly from the Police Officers I worked with every day.

The stigma attached to mental illness in and around 2010 for me personally was far different I believe to what it is now. It was pushed to the side and I don’t remember seeing much of it in the media, it also wasn’t a highly-published topic in general. It certainly wasn’t something that was high on the agenda as a cost to our workforce and economy.

When I left the Police Service I was so afraid of what people would think of me I hid my illness from my Police family. I resigned and left the job hoping no-one would ever find out and put me in that bucket, the mental health stigma bucket. If you have read my previous articles like ‘Symptoms of the Invisible Injury – PTSD’ you will know that didn’t really workout. The unhealthy stigma attached to mental health was alive and kicking.

But I have seen a distinct change over the last 2 – 3 years in Australia, in how mental health conditions are perceived. We are now consistently seeing statistics shown of how prevalent mental health conditions are in Australia, how it is affecting our economy and people in general. It is a subject that now gets considerable air-time on both TV and social media.

In 2015 a ¹report on mental health in the workplace by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) looked at the financial cost incurred when employers do not take action to manage mental health conditions in their business. It estimates the cost to Australian business is approximately $10.9 billion per year. This figure is now widely used to promote the cost to businesses who don’t look into mental health in their workplace.

In February 2017 information from the Mental Health Services in Australia (MHSA) was updated. It now advises that in ²2015 it was identified that around $8.5 billion, or $361 per person, was estimated to be spent on mental health-related services in Australia during 2014–15.

This is an increase from $343 per person (adjusted for inflation) in 2010–11 (2014–15 dollars). This is further staggering when you look back to 1997 – 1998 when I joined the Police Service and the cost was around $2.29 billion or $204 per person.

So it is clear to see that the cost of providing mental health services in Australia is increasing significantly, and that is only for those that choose to utilise government assistance. It doesn’t take into account those who suffer in silence.

One area that will help gauge if mental illness is able to be given mainstream status will be the progressive roll-out of  the government’s $22 billion National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). This scheme will be a test to see if our nations decision makers have got it right. The initial signs look promising, but time will tell!

On a different note we are seeing the emergence and re-invigoration of some pretty darn good organisations such as Beyondblue, SANE Australia, Black Dog Institute, Lifeline, ReachOUT and Blue HOPE for Police Officers.

These non-for-profit organisations are having to deal with the brunt of the calls for assistance at the coalface so to speak. They are professional, caring and do a great job.

We are also seeing some great work being done by individuals in the mental health space, in an effort to break the stigma and make mental health mainstream.

Individuals like Dr Mark Cross, ³Dr Cross is senior psychiatrist at Campbelltown Hospital, where he runs the youth ward and the community team.

He featured in the ground-breaking ABC TV documentary series, Changing Minds, which followed patients and staff in the hospital’s Mental Health Unit.

He has also co-authored a book called ‘Changing Minds: The go-to Guide to Mental Health for family and friends’. Mark also sits on the board of SANE Australia.

Nick Bowditch is one of Australia’s premier speakers on a range of business topics having worked at both Facebook and Twitter. He also speaks passionately about mental health and his life long struggles with mental illness.

Nick travels Australia and the world talking about a number of topics including, how ‘My mental illness is a gift’. He also gave that talk at a  TEDx conference in Mohali, India in 2016. He has also written a book called ‘Reboot Your Thinking: 28 Days to Think Different. Be Better’.  

Alan Sparkes is a former New South Wales Police Officer and °one of only five five Australian heroes in the past 41 years to be awarded our highest bravery decoration and civil award, the Cross of Valour.

In January 2017, Allan was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (oAM) for service to mental health support organisations and the community. Allan has also written his own best selling book ‘The Cost of Bravery’. Allan is also an ambassador for Beyondblue.

With the assistance of these great individuals and organisations I believe we are certainly moving in the right direction.

Are we there yet? Are we ready to accept mental illness right now as a mainstream health condition and give it the positive support it needs?

As a society as a whole, I don’t quite think so, not just yet anyway. As previously mentioned I believe that we have come a long way, particularity in the last 2 – 3 years. But I think we still have some ways to go before having a mental health condition is something that every affected person feels comfortable talking about.

But this is something worth striving for, so lets keep the momentum going.

So for those of you in our community taking up the challenge to reduce the stigma associated with having a mental health condition, I thank you. Keep up the good work, I know we will get there!

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Strategies to improve your Mental Health

¹www.headsup.org.au
²mhsa.aihw.gov.au/resources’expenditure/
³www.abc.net.au
°www.alansparkes.com

Suicides – The post affect on our Police

Suicides – The post affect on our Police

Have you ever thought about how suicide affects others? If so have you considered how it affects our Police Officers who attend every single suicide incident?

In my 13 year career as a Queensland Police Officer, I would have attended literally dozens of suicides. When I first joined the Service as young 22 year old Constable I commonly found myself having to assist the undertaker when attending a suicide incident.

Yes, I mean physically assisting the undertaker in removing the person from their final resting place. This involved lifting, holding or carrying the person and placing them into a body-bag before carrying them to the undertakers’s vehicle.

Not forgetting that a cursory body search has to be completed at the scene and again at the morgue to ensure all valuables and other items can be located and returned to loved ones. One thing I have also had people ask me over the years is, did I talk to them when I was at the morgue or doing these type of jobs?

For me personally the answer is yes. I always talked to the people who had passed when having to search them or remove their clothes. I talked to them about what I was doing and why, I guess it just seemed the right thing to do, and my way of respecting them as another human being.

On a number of occasions I found myself asking them out aloud, why? Why had they done what they had done, particularly after seeing the affects of them passing had on their loved ones. I never got an answer back but it didn’t stop me asking.

But this isn’t the only side to Police Officer’s being involved in suicides. No, There is another side to being involved in a suicide as a Police Officer which is just as hard. I am talking about the times when you have to attend and give a formal death message.

It is something you never get used to and something that never leaves you. I have never forgotten the feeling of taking those fateful steps up to someone’s front door to give a death message. Always stopping to take one final breath and compose myself before making that knock on their front door that will change their life forever.

Nothing can prepare you for how they will react. You have no idea how close they are as a family, when they last saw them or how they are going to take the horrific news you are about to tell them. Selfishly, I often found myself hoping that another family member or friend had rang them already and given them the news before they had to hear it from me. Hoping that this would some how soften the blow and make my job just that but easier.

On occasions this did occur, but not very often.

As a society we are unfortunately touched by suicide way to much. ¹In Australia suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged between 15 and 44, with around 3000 people dying from suicide every year. That’s an average of 8 people every day.

One fact that I feel is sometimes missed, is that everyone of those 3000 recorded suicides is attended by at least one Police Officer. Most times it would be between 3 to 5 Police Officers attending or involved in a suicide incident.

When you take into account the initial attending crew, the specialist Detectives who need to check to see if it was a suicide and not a homicide, and the officer taking the photographs, the numbers quickly add up. This number can also go up further when you take into account if another crew is required to attend and give the associated death message to their next-of-kin.

Remembering what I have just stated above, and my already quoted statistics stating that there are approximately 3000 people taking their lives in Australia each year. This now opens up another alarming statistic. How many of our Police are affected by attending every single one of these 3000 suicide incidents every year?

The figures are staggering!

Bearing in mind I have only touched on Police Officers in this article. I haven’t even factored in the involvement and the affects on our other emergency service workers such as the Fire Fighters, Ambulance and Hospital staff.

The affects of suicide on our community are wide and reaching. The affects on the multiple Police Officers who attend everyone of these incidents can be devastating.
Luckily times are changing and with the recent commencement of a non-profit charity in Australia called Blue HOPE. Blue HOPE  assists current and former Police Officers along with their families in getting access to the assistance they need. It is run by people who know what it feels like, as most of them are current or former Police Officers.

We do have some great existing charities in Australia at present like Beyond Blue and Black Dog Institute, which assist our wider community in dealing with mental health issues including suicide. But it is also great to see the emergence of an industry specific charity such as Blue HOPE to assist our Police Officers who attend such life changing incidents like suicides on a daily basis.

So next time you hear someone mention the current statistics in relation to people taking their own lives, please feel for their loved ones. But also think of the  3 to 5 Police Officers that attend every suicide incident, and the affect it also has on their lives and that of their families.

If you would like to donate to Blue HOPE  please click on any of the blue coloured hyperlinked sections of this article. Or click on the following link which will take you straight to the Blue HOPE – Donations page.

If you would to like to receive my articles straight to your in-box, then you can subscribe using the subscription box just below.

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Strategies to improve your Mental Health

¹ Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2016). Causes of Death, Australia 2015, preliminary data., Cat. no. (3303.0). Canberra: ABS.

You may not be a celebrity but your story is just as important!

You may not be a celebrity but your story is just as important!

As I browse through my social media feeds I come across another high profile sports star speaking out about their mental health conditions and subsequent battles.

A further quick browse and I find a celebrity telling the world about how they have hidden their battles with mental illness, addiction and substance abuse.

Both are tragic but inspiring at the same time. What is about a high profile person talking about their problems that makes for such good reading? It makes them just that bit more human, more like an ordinary person. Just like the rest of us!

The coverage of these people and their stories is nothing short of amazing. Thousands of views on-line, hundreds of shares and positive comments on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

Don’t get me wrong this article is not about my green-eyed monster coming out. I am all for anything that anyone can do to raise the awareness of mental illness and the struggles in our world today.

But as I watch the professional video’s, look at the well crafted business pages and websites I start to think, what about the ordinary everyday person, where is their story? How come it is not getting the same exposure? Is it less important than that of a professional sports person or celebrity?’

Now before you think I have missed the blatantly obvious, I haven’t. I know the high profile sports player or celebrity are simply able to leverage their popularity to get their message out to a lot more people. Kudos to them I say, well done, keep it coming.

But I still find myself asking, what about the everyday person. The person that shops at Lowes, lives from pay-to-pay and works two part-time jobs waiting tables just to buy shoes for their kids to go to school.

The person that waits until sale time at Target or K-Mart to lay-by all of their kids Xmas presents so they can pay them off over the next 6 – 8 months.

Where is that person’s story? Where is their video or article about their battles with mental illness, domestic violence, addiction or substance abuse?  Is it it any less important, was their struggle any less real? No of course not.

But we generally just don’t to see it or read about it unless we go searching.

Recently I was invited to a new community event on the Sunshine Coast called ‘Stories of Hope’ hosted by ‘Empower Life Solutions’.  Having been to a few networking type events over the last year I was a bit hesitant at first.

Don’t get me wrong networking events are great and have their purpose, but it is hard to really get to know people at an organic level at these type of events.

But you know when you stumble across something special. Something special, is an event where you get to see normal everyday people talking openly about some of the hardest times in their lives, and what they did to get through them.

No celebrities, sports stars, hidden agendas or sales pitches, just everyday normal people with the courage to open their heart and talk about their struggles, tragedies and triumphs.

As I looked around the room there was an eerie silence as I watched the crowd listen to the courageous person telling their story. I noticed the nod of heads from people as they identified within themselves with certain parts of the story being told.

So what is the end goal of this type of event? It’s simple!

By everyday people talking about their journeys, struggles and how they got through them, we might just make it easier for someone else going through the same hardship.

These are the stories we need to see and hear about, just as much as the stories from celebrities and sports stars.

So don’t ever think that someone else’s story is any more worthy of telling than yours, simply because of their social status or standing.

We all have a story to tell, what is yours?

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Strategies to improve your Mental Health

Are you finding it hard to make decisions? This may be why!

Are you finding it hard to make decisions? This may be why!

Some decisions in life are easier than others, but what happens when all of your decisions become hard to make?

Prior to allowing myself to believe that I had PTSD and Depression I could make a decision in a heart beat. Irrespective of if the decision was right or wrong I could make it and live with the consequences.

I am not talking about decisions like what should I have for lunch today or what should I do this weekend? I am talking about serious decisions. Decisions that if wrong could cost somebody their life.

An example of one such decision was when as a Detective I was working on the Daniel Morcombe murder investigation, and another officer and I decided to go out and get some lunch.  However on this day I decided not to wear my firearm, which was actually very unusual for me as I normally wore it everyday.

As fate would have it whilst driving back to the office we heard a call come over the Police radio. ‘Urgent any unit, any unit, urgent, armed robbery in progress’.

As the operator advised the location of the bank I realised that at that very moment we were driving right past it. My first question to my partner was ‘Do you have your gun?’ With ‘No’ as the answer it was decision time.

Being the senior officer it was my decision, do we keep driving or do we go in knowing the offender robbing the bank was armed with a knife and the strongest thing we had to throw at him was bad language.

The decision was made in a split second, we are going in!

Advising my partner we were going to run into a bank in the middle of an armed robbery with no gun or other equipment was a decision I made in a heart beat, without hesitation.

The bad language did come in handy actually, and the offender with the knife was arrested without anyone getting hurt. That was the last day I ever stepped outside the office without my gun.

Fast forward 5 years and it was another day in my life where I had to make a decision. Would this decision possibly get anyone killed? No. Was it urgent or important? To most people, No.

But to me at that time in my life it was serious, it was urgent and it was a decision that I simply couldn’t make on my own. So whilst approaching a roundabout I asked my wife who was sitting beside me, ‘which way should I go to the dump?’

Yes the dump!

After living on the Sunshine Coast for most of my life and having been to the dump dozens of times, I couldn’t make the decision which was the best way to get there. The sad thing is I was serious, I really couldn’t make that simple decision without asking my wife for assistance.

So what was so different? Having PTSD had affected my nerves, they were fried, my confidence was shot, and I found myself asking my wife for help with something that I would normally do subconsciously without having to ask anybody.

So the trend continued, I found myself not being able to manage the family finances. This was always my thing, as I worked in a bank for 6 years before becoming a Police Officer. I couldn’t make a firm decision on what to have for dinner, and so on.

As the ‘man’ of the family this was both debilitating and soul destroying to say the least. From decisions around armed robberies to what was going to be on the dinner menu. What had become of me?

Luckily for me I finally took the step and got treatment from a number of medical professionals for my mental health conditions. They thankfully advised me that this was not uncommon for people suffering from PTSD, and that I would get back to a position where I could make decision again.

The journey back to being able to make decisions on my own didn’t happen overnight. It involved a lot of little steps, setbacks and frustration along the way. But it eventually happened!

So if you find yourself in the position I was please remember it can be fixed, you just need to take the first step. Ask for help!

Want to know how I did it? E-mail me at stuart@healthymindhealthyfuture.com if you want to find out what I did to get my decision making mojo back!

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Strategies to improve your Mental Health

Can Positive Psychology improve your resilience and Mental Health

Can Positive Psychology improve your resilience and Mental Health

Resilience is still an often talked about topic in today’s ever changing and stressful world, we constantly hear that being resilient is important in both our personal lives as well as in our workplace.

But what does it mean for our mental health or for those of us that have a mental health condition, and more importantly how can we build up our resilience to assist in managing a mental health condition such as PTSD?

For a start let’s look at resilience and what the word means. There are lots of different descriptions or definitions out there but one that I personally resonate with is one that is promoted in the U.S Army as a part of their Master Reliance Training Program.

It provides the following explanation for resilience. ¹Resilience refers to overall physical and psychological health, and has been described as the ability to “bounce back from adversity.” There it is simple and straight to the point, resilience is our ability to bounce back from adversity.

So how can you build up your resilience to assist you with maintaining positive mental health in general? Or to assist with a specific mental health condition?

A positive mental health approach and resilience development can be seen to draw its influence from positive psychology.

²Positive Psychology is a relatively new branch of psychology that shifts the focus from what is clinically wrong, to the promotion of well-being and the creation of a satisfying life filled with meaning, pleasure, engagement, positive relationships, and accomplishment.

In essence positive psychology delves into and focuses on areas such as: positive emotions, positive experiences, positive environments and human strengths and virtues.

It is not intended to replace traditional clinical psychology but it merely changes the focus from what is going wrong to the importance of what is going right and what your strengths are.

For a more in-depth description of what positive psychology is about below is a YouTube clip (4:58mins).

From my own personal experiences with PTSD and Depression I can resonate with the importance of focusing on the positive aspects of life to improve my resilience and mental health. Looking deeper into how I deal with challenges in my work and home life, the friends that I surround myself with, to finding out what is really meaningful in my life and following it with passion has certainly helped.

It certainly does not take away the importance of dealing with the clinical side of mental health, but I do see positive psychology as a refreshing additional approach that has a place in building resilience and improving the way we deal with mental health conditions.

PS – The Black Dog Institute of Australia has a great PDF that also fully explains positive psychology. Click on their name in the above sentence for a direct link to the PDF.

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Strategies to improve your Mental Health

¹Reivich KJ, Seligman ME, McBride S. Master resilience training in the U.S. Army. Am Psychol. 2011;66:25–34.

² Anne Siret, www.annesiret.com 

³ Keyes & Haidt, 2004

Is your work affecting your Mental Health?

Is your work affecting your Mental Health?

Work smarter, faster, produce better results and do more with less.

Do any of these words and phrases sound familiar? And how do they make you feel? I can tell you that they make about 3 million Australian workers, or to put it another way about 1 in 5 Australian workers feel depressed and anxious.

So, when do you know if your work is affecting your mental health and what can you do about it?

For a start let’s look at what the most common mental health conditions that can result from stresses in your workplace. The two most common mental health conditions associated with work are Depression and Anxiety, with PTSD also being a high contributor for our emergency service workers.

In my previous article Is your employees Mental Health affecting your business? I focused on what employers can do to assist their employees with their mental health and what signs they can look out for to see if their employees are stressed.

In this article, I will focus on you, the employee. I will provide you with some warning signs to look out for and some different avenues to consider for assistance. But I would like to make it clear, I am not a medical professional and the information I am providing is simply from my own personal experiences as a previous emergency service worker for 13 years which resulted in being personally diagnosed with PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety.

No matter what industry you work in there is a fair chance that you may be exposed to situations that can be quite stressful. A little bit of stress is actual good for us as ³according to experts, stress is a burst of energy that basically advises you on what to do.

³In small doses, stress has many advantages. For instance, stress can help you meet daily challenges and motivates you to reach your goals. In fact, stress can help you accomplish tasks more efficiently. It can even boost memory.

³In addition, there are various health benefits with a little bit of stress. Researchers believe that some stress can help to fortify the immune system. For instance, stress can improve how your heart works and protect your body from infection. In one study, individuals who experienced moderate levels of stress before surgery were able to recover faster than individuals who had low or high levels.

HMHF What is Stress

So, let’s look at some situations in your workplace that may cause you to become stressed:

  • Substantial increase in workload
  • Unrealistic time frames for completion of work
  • Staff not being replaced
  • Higher outputs with less staff or resources
  • Bullying, harassment, or discrimination
  • Doing tasks or activities you are not specifically trained for
  • Managing people
  • Workplace conflict
  • Job insecurity
  • Organisation restructures
  • Budgetary constraints and pressures

For our emergency service workers, it can also be situations such as:

  • Exposure to traumatic events (car accidents, deaths, murders, assaults)
  • Personal threats and assaults
  • Attending domestic violence incidents
  • Incidents involving children
  • Reliving incidents during the court process
  • The continual exposure to negative events and situations

All of the above situations can occur any and every day and won’t affect some workers at all, but for others it can be extremely damaging and result in being diagnosed with a debilitating mental health condition.

Warning Signs

Because of work stresses the symptoms of a mental health condition can manifest and display themselves differently in everyone, but below are some common warning signs to look out for¹:

  • Chest pain or a pounding heart
  • Fatigue or reduced energy and drive
  • Reduced interest in sex
  • Nausea or diarrhea, particularly before attending work or whilst at work
  • Loss or change of appetite
  • Sleeping problems
  • Feeling overwhelmed or frustrated
  • Feeling guilty or unhappy
  • Being irritable for no reason
  • Losing confidence and being indecisive
  • Thinking negatively
  • Significant weight loss in a short period
  • An overall feeling of doom or worthlessness
  • Excessive worrying, even over some of the smallest things

HMHF Stress management

What can you do about it?

At a higher level, you can look to implement strategies such as²:

  • Identify your triggers
  • Establish routines
  • Spend time with people who care
  • Look after your health
  • Practice relaxation
  • See a medical professional
  • Speak with a specific service providers such as Beyond Blue, Black Dog Institute, or Blue Hope for Police officers

In your working environment, you could consider implementing some more specific strategies such as¹:

  • Take your annual leave each year and make sure you have a proper break from work.
  • Get out of the workplace during lunch – even if it’s just for a 10-minute walk. You’ll feel refreshed and more productive in the afternoon.
  • Try scheduling meetings during core work hours, not your personal time.
  • Restrict your overtime hours and speak to your manager if demands are unreasonable.
  • If you frequently work late, try leaving on time at least a couple of times a week.
  • Avoid checking your emails or answering work calls out of hours.
So what does it all mean?

ªMental illness is more prevalent than many people realise. Around 45% of Australians aged between 16 and 85 will experience a mental illness at some point in their life, while one in five Australian adults will experience a mental illness in any given year.

A worker may develop mental illness prior to employment or during employment. Most workers successfully manage their illness without it impacting on their work. Some may require workplace support for a short period of time, while a minority will require ongoing workplace strategies.

It is often presumed that a worker’s mental illness develops outside of the workplace. However, an ‘unhealthy’ work environment or a workplace incident can cause considerable stress and exacerbate, or contribute to, the development of mental illness.

Take it from someone that has been through it personally. Dealing with a work related mental health condition is extremely challenging, soul destroying, financially draining and definitely life changing.

But I can assure you; you will get through it even though it may take some time, life does get better and the changes? Well, they aren’t all bad!

So if the information in this article resonates with what your are experiencing please take that first small, but hardest step of asking for or seeking help.

Because you are worth it!

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Strategies to improve your Mental Health

¹Beyond Blue,  ² Australian Psychological Society, ³ULifeline, ªAustralian Human Rights Commission

Is your employees Mental Health affecting your business?

Is your employees Mental Health affecting your business?

When most of us hear the words mental illness or mental health condition we immediately starting thinking of things like sadness, exposure to traumatic events or people with mind problems. Whilst that may be true there is another side to mental illness that is now being recognised and the figures are out of this world.

Mental illness in the workplace has until recently been a sleeping giant, why? Because it is not something that you can see immediately and quickly treat like a normal workplace injury such as a back injury or broken arm.

It doesn’t always appear straight away and it is not something that is easily or readily reported on or able to be tracked.

So how much of an issue is mental health conditions in the workplace in Australia?

  • ¹At any given time 1 in 5 employees are likely to be experiencing a mental health condition
  • ¹Untreated mental health conditions costs Australian employers $10.9 billion per year
What to look for?
People

Depression and anxiety are the two most common mental health conditions experienced in the workplace. ¹There are on average one million people in Australia living with depression and over two million have anxiety. ¹There are some workplace behaviours to look out for, such as an employee who is:

  • finding it difficult to concentrate on tasks
  • turning up to work late
  • feeling tired and fatigued
  • being unusually tearful or emotional
  • getting angry easily or frustrated with tasks or people
  • finding it difficult to meet reasonable deadlines
  • finding it hard to accept constructive and well-delivered feedback
  • having difficulty managing multiple tasks or demands
  • drinking alcohol to cope
  • appearing restless, tense and on edge
  • avoiding certain workplace activities such as staff meetings
  • becoming overwhelmed or upset easily
  • finding it hard to make decisions
  • referring to being constantly worried and appearing apprehensive.
Business Performance

As well as the human factor, there are several triggers within your business or organisations performance that can be monitored as well, such as:

  • increased sick leave especially around times of change
  • increase in ‘mind on task’ workplace injuries due to poor concentration
  • reduction in performance or production from an area going through or that has been through recent change
  • reduced levels of engagement in workplace surveys
What can you or your organisation do about it?

Reaching out and being supportive is a good way of looking out for your staff. It is not your role to diagnose or provide counselling. It is your role to assist the person to get help if they need it.

Each situation will be different but remember, your role can be critical in assisting that person to get help. ¹Half of all those experiencing depression and anxiety do not seek help, even though effective treatments are available. The workplace can play an important role in whether someone seeks help or not.

HMHF Employee Assistance Programs

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)

As well being a supportive employer there are several professional organisations that specialise in Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) that can be engaged to further help your employee’s well-being.

These organisations will normally offer initial telephone consultations for assessment purposes and then refer the employee an appropriate specialist for face-to-face sessions.

Assistance is normally extended the employees immediately family and can be for a range of matters both work and not work related such as:

  • Mental health conditions
  • Financial hardship
  • Substance abuse and addictions such as gambling, alcohol, or drugs
  • Marital issues
  • Work related issues such as stress management, managing workloads, dealing with difficult staff or co-workers
  • Grief counselling
Support Agencies

In Australia there are several support agencies that provide a range of on-line and face-to-face tools to assist small and medium businesses deal with mental health conditions in the workplace. Below is a list of a few that can assist:

  • Beyond Blue
  • Mental Health First Aid
  • OzHelp
  • SANE Australia Mindful Employer
  • Black Dog Institute
Culture

Providing a positive and supportive culture is not to be underestimated, it is important to ensure workers feel valued. Promoting and providing initiatives can help such as:

  • The importance of having a healthy work vs life balance
  • Partnering with health insurers like BUPA or Medibank to provide programs such as:
    • Annual health checks
    • Lifestyle education sessions on diet, diabetes, alcohol, exercise, or sugar
  • Fitness challenges using wearable fitness trackers such as fitbits, jawbone, or garmin vivo’s
  • Guest speakers to talk to employees on matters such as mental health conditions, living a healthy lifestyle and how to deal with stress
So what does the research say and is it all worth it?

The simple answer is YES it is all worth it for both the employee and the employer. It’s simple when you consider the following facts:

  • ²research by Pricewaterhouse Cooper has shown that for every $1 you spend creating a mentally healthy workplace will, on average, have a potential return on investment (ROI) of $2.30
  • ³research from Instinct and Reason identified that three quarters of Australians employees say a mentally healthy workplace is important when looking for a job
  • ¹around 90 per cent of employees think mental health is an important issue for businesses, but only 50 per cent believe their workplace is mentally healthy

HMHF Stressed Workplace

Speaking from first hand experience I can assure you that dealing with a mental health condition can be all encompassing and consuming. Employers who give the right assistance and support will inevitably be in a better position to retain their staff and benefit from the investment in them.

 

 

 

 

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Strategies to improve your Mental Health

¹Beyond Blue, ²Pricewaterhouse Cooper, ³Instinct & Reason

HMHF keep your mind healthy 1 HMHF keep your mind healthy 2 HMHF keep your mind healthy 3 HMHF keep your mind healthy 4

Saltwater Therapy – Mental Health Soup for the Soul

Saltwater Therapy – Mental Health Soup for the Soul

Sand everywhere, three young kids, no proper toilet and how the hell am I going to watch the footy grand final. These were just my initial thoughts when a good mate suggested we head up the beach with them for a weekend of camping and relaxing.

Then came the clincher, no mobile phone reception, the Bush TV (I will explain this one a bit later), only a strip of sand between us and the water and the roar of the ocean all night while you sleep. Sign-Me-Up was my response, and that was that we were booked in for three days camping at Noosa’s beautiful Double Island Point.

Did I mention we don’t have any camping gear at all?

Well with the assistance of our lovely neighbours we managed to borrow their camper trailer and a few more things from the friends we were going with and we were set.

Having recently been on a two week family adventure of New Zealand’s South Island without my mobile phone, the thought of another quick trip away without a mobile phone was tantalizing to say the least.

As the days grew closer I couldn’t get two things out of my head.

The thought of going to bed listening to the roar of the ocean; and

Three days without mobile phone access.

As we hit the beach late in the afternoon I literally felt the stress and tension fall away, well actually I could only that for about all of 2klms until we realised our friends were bogged near the waters edge on a in-coming tide.

HMHF Bogged on the beach

After bogging ourselves trying to help them out the only solution left was using 3 x V8 Toyota Land-cruisers hitched together with snatch-n-straps to get them out.

Funnily enough the stress of both of us getting bogged right on the waters edge with the waves coming closer and closer was exhilarating, it made me feel alive. I had full confidence in our friends and the kindness of other beach goers was refreshing.

With a tow up to the Teerwah township we decided to sit out the turn of the tide and continue on after the tide had dropped so we could get a good run on the harder sand down close to the water’s edge.

As we cracked the top off a few beers and got some dinner sorted for the kids we took some time to thanks our rescuers and it was then when I started to feel the start of some saltwater therapy.

To give you an idea of what I am talking about have a quick look at the below photo!

HMHF Saltwater Therapy image 1

At this point I also realised that I had no mobile phone reception and it sunk-in, no-one can contact me even if I wanted them to. Knowing this removed the guilt of having to put my phone on silent or do not disturb, but still secretly check it every few minutes.

As the sun went down while our families stayed at the site we took over a small fire pit that had been left behind by another group of people on the beach. Grabbing some fire wood from the dunes we got it going again and this is where I was introduced to the ‘Bush TV’.

You see the Bush TV (Fire) is captivating to watch, and changing the channel is as simple as adding another log and watching how the fire caresses the wood before taking hold and turning it into red hot coals that glow and change colours. So there we were two men sitting in the complete dark away from the our families staring at the fire, we talked about life, its challenges and triumphs, but most importantly we talked!

Having some uninterrupted time to talk to a friend is so beneficial for your mental health. Talking can be more than just words, it can often allow someone who maybe going through a difficult time to unload some of the stress and pressure they have been carrying around inside of them.

Besides as the saying goes ‘A problem shared is a problem halved!’

Later that night we managed to navigate our way up the beach and find a suitable camping spot where we set up and unpacked. With a bit more Bush TV time under our belt at our new home it was time for bed and to check out this promised all night roar from the ocean.

Well it was there alright, all night and for every minute over the next three days. The sound of the waves crashing down some 60 meters away takes a bit of getting used to, but I can tell you it is a great sound to go to sleep to!

Over the coming days we had some great family adventures four-wheel-driving, fishing and generally exploring but there was one activity that really stood out for me.  At the end of the beach is a little cove where most campers and day-trippers congregate to relax, surf, swim and snorkel around the amazing rock formations.

It was at this location that I managed to take my 9 year old son snorkeling in the ocean for the first time. His nervousness and apprehension was soon replaced with excitement and exhilaration at seeing the thriving ecosystem of fish, jellyfish and turtles that were literally within meters of the waters edge.

That time connecting and bonding with my eldest son is something I will cherish for ever. It was something that also made me appreciate the joys of family, having my health and the unconditional love that children possess.

HMHF Saltwater Therapy image 2

Sitting back on the beach in a fold-out chair with the sun slowly warming me back up I could taste the dried salt on my lips and smell the sunscreen that was on my face. As I watched my son back in the water with his new found passion for snorkeling I felt a sense of calm, a feeling of ‘I could be anywhere in the world right now with this view’.

But I wasn’t I was simply about one and a half hours from home enjoying the very simple but amazing  pleasures the beach, the ocean and the saltwater had to offer.

If you want a location where you can relax, reconnect and take some time out from the world to work on your mental health, then get yourself to the beach!

Saltwater Therapy – Mental Health Soup for the Soul!

PS – Watching the footy grand-final on a flat screen tv in our friends caravan with a few neighbouring campers in-tow was great!

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Strategies to improve your Mental Health

HMHF keep your mind healthy 1 HMHF keep your mind healthy 2 HMHF keep your mind healthy 3 HMHF keep your mind healthy 4

Just Feeling Depressed Vs Having Depression

Just Feeling Depressed Vs Having Depression

Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world, Yes the world. Add to the fact that in any one year 1 million Australian adults will have depression¹ and you begin to realise that there are a lot of people struggling to deal with mental health conditions such as depression.

I often get asked “So what does it actually feel like to have depression?” The answer to this question can be different for each person, but what I can tell you is that actually having depression is vastly different to just feeling down from time-to-time.

This following TedEd YouTube clip gives a good explanation of the difference between just feeling depressed and having the medical condition depression.

With a better understanding of the difference between the two now lets look at what it actually feels like to have depression.

This can be a hard question to answer because having depression can feel different for each and every person. What I may be experiencing might be completely different to what you may be experiencing, this doesn’t mean my depression is worse than yours or vice-versa, it just means we have different symptoms.

For me depression was a secondary mental health condition as a result of suffering PTSD. Whilst struggling to deal with PTSD and the profound impact it had on my life at that time I found myself starting to experience a number of different strange symptoms. Symptoms like an inability to feel happy, excited or to even crack a smile. Not wanting to get out of bed of a morning and an overarching feeling of worthlessness and doom.

It really felt like a big black cloud had descended around my head and blocked out my ability to feel anything other than sadness.

The following short video clip by Anne also gives a good explanation of what it can feel like to have actual depression.

My experience was similar to that of Anne’s with respect to the explanation given to me by my Doctor when I opened up and starting actually telling him what I was experiencing. I mean really opening up and talking about the raw and real symptoms whilst not leaving anything out.

His answer was simple “You have depression” 

Having an honest and open no-holes-barred conversation with your Doctor or medical specialist is something that I can’t speak or write enough about. It is so important!

The people that are here to help us are not mind readers, they need to know what you are experiencing in-order to give the right diagnosis, information, guidance and treatment. It is that simple!

So next time you feel disappointed or a bit down about a decision that didn’t go your way remember there is a fair chance you are experiencing the feeling of being depressed.

But if that feeling lasts two weeks or longer than please take some action and go and speak to someone as you may be experiencing the medical condition known as depression.

Life is to short to live it being unhappy. Take some action to feel better, I did and you can too!

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Strategies to improve your Mental Health

¹Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2008). National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007. Cat. no. (4326.0). Canberra: ABS.

HMHF keep your mind healthy 1 HMHF keep your mind healthy 2 HMHF keep your mind healthy 3 HMHF keep your mind healthy 4

PTSD Symptoms

PTSD Symptoms

“Drop the gun, Drop the gun, Put down the gun NOW!” My voice was loud, authoritative and piercing in the night air, so I was told! But I couldn’t hear how loud I was screaming this phrase over and over again at the drug crazed man with the large black semi-automatic handgun.

With my partner around the back of the premise it was just me and him, with only the glass pane of a shopfront window and about 10 metres between us. His drug fueled eyes stared straight through me like I was invisible.

My whole world had slowed down and was literally moving in slow motion. My brain had entered fight or flight mode and shut down my non-essential sensory mechanisms and my peripheral vision. I could hear someone screaming at the man with the gun, but I couldn’t hear how loud it was and it didn’t feel like the words were coming out of my mouth, it was like I was listening to someone else screaming.

Of course I wasn’t, it was me. It was me standing in the middle of the road all alone that night in my bullet proof vest on, gun pointed, screaming at the man with gun.  The man who had just pointed the gun directly in the face of a 16 year old girl. Tunnel vision had kicked in and I was hyper-focused on just him and him alone.

Please put down the gun, please put down the gun I don’t want to have to kill you kept running through my mind as I continued screaming for him to put it down.

Having attended and been involved in the investigation of a justifiable homicide (Police Shooting) previously I know how peoples lives change forever when they are forced to take another’s in the line of duty. It can never be taken back and no-one wins irrespective what side of the situation you are on.

As he got up and walked out of the shop directly at me I squeezed the trigger to rest at the first and last load point and continued to scream my demands. I knew if I pulled just that bit more life would change forever, and not just his!

I can still remember thinking this is it, this is it, he is either going to shoot me now or I am going to have to shoot him!

Thankfully neither of those situations eventuated and he put down the gun and I managed to get to a point where I could holster my weapon and crash tackle him to the ground.

It was over. So I thought!

Pumped full of adrenalin was the reason I thought my hands were shaking so much that I couldn’t write in my Police notebook. Stupid adrenalin was my initial thought process, that was until it started happening again and again. Each time I would respond to a high risk situation like a siege or a person armed with a knife, I found that afterwards my hands would shake. They would shake that much that I simply couldn’t use them to even record witness details in my notebook.

Quite an easy one to hide when you are Sergeant, as you can rely upon more junior officers to get those basic details for you. Unfortunately they weren’t the only symptoms I was experiencing from being constantly exposed to trauma and high risk incidents.

Most of my increasingly annoying symptoms where being experienced outside of work when I was at home with my family. I think this assisted in allowing me to hide them from my work colleagues for such a long period of time.

The main symptom that was evident at home was my increasing emotional reaction to sad or distressing scenes or stories on the television. I would often tear-up at a news stories involving children being hurt or people displaying grief over a bombing or an accident. It was when I started to tear-up when reading emotional news articles in the paper or a magazine that my wife piped up and told me that this wasn’t good and couldn’t go on.

It was only some years later after I had left the Police Service and was answering some questions from a medical professional that I pieced it all together. All of the different symptoms I had been experiencing were text book PTSD symptoms.

It was almost like reading the actual medical definition of PTSD symptoms!

It wasn’t until I was told that they weren’t just part of getting older, that they weren’t just normal experiences that emergency workers went through, that I wish I had had the courage to speak up earlier – much earlier.

What feelings and experiences am I referring to? Well below is a list of what I personally felt and experienced over about a five year period.

Insomnia – Not just bad sleeping patterns from years of shift work, I mean a constant inability to get a good nights sleep.

Hyper Vigilance – A feeling of always being super sensitive to my surroundings. Who is doing what, where, when, why.

Irritability – Perpetually being in a bad mood, or it not taking much at all to get into one.

Upset Stomach – Going to the toilet up to 8 times before going to work of a morning. Yes a great way to lose weight but not one that you will get recommended by any weight loss expert.

Inability To Handle Stress – Getting flustered, cranky or overwhelmed when given multiple tasks to handle or when the one you are doing doesn’t go to plan.

Flashbacks And Nightmares – Having flashbacks of murder victims whilst watching television shows like Criminal Minds, NCIS or even the news. Waking up at night after having a nightmare that a murderer that I had arrested was trying to kill me or one of my work partners.

Being Withdrawn – Not wanting to socialise with friends or with groups of people. Also going into my ‘Cave’ and totally withdrawing from conversations or activities at home.

So ask yourself. “Do any or all of this symptoms resonate with you or someone you know”?

Living in today’s busy world it can be quite easy not to put together all the pieces of the puzzle and see the true picture of what is going on right in front of our own eyes.

By simply taking the first step of going and speaking to a medical professional about the symptoms that you are experiencing, you are miles in front. Miles in front of someone like me who pushed them all to the background for years and years whilst they built up, until they forced themselves out.

Take it from me if you are experiencing some or all of the symptoms I have mentioned in this article then get off your butt and take some action.

Why? Because You Are Worth It! Because there is an alternative to just sitting back and living with it!

Without the assistance of a number of specialised medical professionals I would not be where I am today. I would not be in a position to talk about my experiences to help others.

Admitting that you possibly have a mental health condition is certainly not easy, but it is far better than the alternative and all that comes with not admitting it.

I can assure you from personal experience that taking that first step was the best thing I ever did.

If you are reading this article and can identify someone close to you that may be experiencing some or all of the symptoms, can I ask a favour of you?

Take the initiative and start a conversation by asking that person RUOK? Asking this simple question can have an amazing affect on someone going through a tough time in life and can be the catalyst for some positive change.

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Strategies to improve your Mental Health

HMHF keep your mind healthy 1 HMHF keep your mind healthy 4 HMHF keep your mind healthy 3 HMHF keep your mind healthy 2

Holidaying for Mental Health

Holidaying for Mental Health

It took all of about two minutes before I subconsciously grabbed each of my pockets wondering where my mobile phone was. Had I put it in my wife’s handbag or accidentally left it on the top of the car? NO. It was actually safely secured away inside my car where it would stay for the next two weeks whilst we embarked on our first overseas family holiday.

My aim was to have two weeks where I was completely un-contactable from my normal day-to-day job. This might sound fairly easy to some but when you are a workaholic and have three different electronic devices that receive work e-mails and a combined work/personal mobile phone, getting away from it all is almost impossible. Couple that with previously being diagnosed with PTSD and Depression from thirteen years as a Detective in the Police Service and the ability to relax and de-stress gets a whole lot harder to achieve.

Easy-fix I thought. Just dump the electronic devices and head off for a two-week family holiday travelling around New Zealand’s beautiful South Island and voila…………complete relaxation and bliss. With no contact with or from work I would immediately, or after a day or so, be so relaxed I could just chill-out and enjoy the breakaway.

Little did I know how far from the truth this would be!

Between leaving the car and arriving in New Zealand I must have checked my pockets for my mobile phone at least a dozen times before my brain accepted that it was ok that it wasn’t there. I can’t honestly remember in the last fifteen years a time I went for more than a day without access to a mobile phone.

Why is it that at 41 years of age I can’t get by without my mobile phone being in my pocket or within a few meters of where I am? Is it social conditioning or the need to be constantly connected with what is going on in the world?

Flying out of the country on a Friday morning whilst managing a significant work activity didn’t really help, I spent most of our first day away thinking and worrying about what I had forgotten to do, had I prepped everyone for Fridays activities in my absence and who did I forget to ring back?

It was at this moment I realised that simply leaving all of my electronic devices at home wasn’t going to automatically make me relax and unwind the minute I jetted out of the country.

Still with work firmly on my mind we picked up our Britz motor-homes and we were off to our first night’s location, Hanmer Springs. As luck would have it, it snowed at Hanmer Springs that night, and snowed and snowed some more. With it being our first ever overseas trip and our first time touching real snow everyone was buzzing with excitement.

The next morning, I had my first ‘Ahh this is what I need’ moment. Whilst waiting to fill up the water tank on our motor-home it started snowing again and the snow was coming down quite heavy.

I stood there, held my arms out, let the snow fall all over me, feeling how it felt when it hit my face and I simply stared into oblivion whilst thinking ‘This is what life is really about, why has it taken me this long to get here?’

HMHF Holidaying for Mental Health image 3

With the water sorted we were off and into our next five-day motor-home adventure of the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

Still the ‘no-mobile phone in my pocket’ was playing tricks with my mind and I had to continually remind myself that work was going to survive without me and the world would not stop turning if at 41 years of age I had a two-week break away from my mobile phone.

Over the coming days we drove through and passed some amazing places and I made sure that I continually involved myself with the beautiful scenery at any opportunity in order to take my mind away from the thought of work. This also allowed my mind to drift away and do a bit of day-dreaming about the reality of my life, what I had been through to get here and what I had to change to make it better, and not just better for me.

One of the many annoying effects of PTSD is that it affects your nerves. Just like how continually stretching a rubber band eventually doesn’t allow for it to go back to its original shape, PTSD can affect how your nerves handle the small things that used to previously, not bother you.  For me one of those ‘little things’ is finding myself being continually snappy and grumpy at my kids for all kinds of ridiculously little things, simply because my nerves can’t handle it anymore.

Seeing my kids as just that………kids. Kids that drop things, kids that fight and kids that love the feeling of seeing and touching snow for the very first time was not just refreshing but humbling. Humbling that I could give them that experience and be there to witness it first hand and not be at work and have to get told about it the next day.

Over the following days I made a pact with my wife that we would not talk about my work at all and just concentrate on having a good time, as she said ‘It will all still be there when you get back so why worry about it now, you can’t do anything about it from here’.

Epiphany No.1 – If you are in another country and don’t have access to your work, you can’t sort work sh@t out. So just let it go!

One of my strategies to de-stress and relax was to get involved in some holiday activities. Let me tell you this is a great idea and certainly aids in forgetting about your troubles, issues or work related matters. It also assisted in providing me with the perspective that there is more to life than working or worrying yourself to death.

I have also found that my body’s ability to deal with adrenalin is not that same as it used to be, Pre-PTSD. I find that an adrenalin rush can be triggered by my bodies senses associating something simple now with a situation that was not so nice previously. I also find it harder now to get that adrenalin rush and awesome feeling pumping through your body when you are doing something amazing. Well during this trip, I found a way to sort the second statement out!

Epiphany No.2 – Exhilarating activities like Jet-Boating in 4 inches of water at 95klms/hr certainly assists in getting your adrenalin going and takes your mind off some of life’s worries.

HMHF Holidaying for Mental Health image 2

As we worked our way around the South Island, out of the motor-homes, into 4WD’s, rented houses, and motels I found myself being immersed in ‘I don’t give a crap what my hair looks like today under my beanie’ and ‘Does this short sleeve shirt really go with my long sleeve stripped thermals underneath?’

Bit by bit I found my inner-self acknowledging that it was OK to unwind and LET GO!

Until it happened……………………..My inner-self worked out I was on holidays. How?

Epiphany No.3 – You know you are truly on holidays and relaxed when you have no idea what day of the week it is and actually have to ask someone for clarification!

BANG and that was it! Day 10 of a 13-day holiday my body relaxed and de-stressed enough to realise it was actually on holidays!

Am I disappointed that it took 10 days into a 13-day holiday to feel like I was on holidays? No, not at all. I am just grateful that I still have the ability to enjoy life and the pleasure that it has to offer. The enjoyment of watching my kids experience something for the first time in their lives, something that I know they will remember forever.

Having been affected by a mental health condition and all that comes with it doesn’t mean you can’t have a fulfilling life. Not at all! It does mean that you have to continually monitor and work on maintaining the right balance in life to ensure you keep your mental health in check.

Sometimes you have to acknowledge that somethings aren’t the same as they used to be, but that in itself is not all bad!

So next time you are feeling a bit overwhelmed or just need a break from the world, go-on ditch your electronic devices and get away from it all for a while. It doesn’t have to be to another country it could be as simple as going camping up the beach or in the bush for the weekend, staying on a family members farm or heading out onto the ocean.

Believe it or not the world will still turn, you will survive not being contactable for a while and your mental health will be better off for it.

I would love to hear about your breakaways from the electronic world, so if you have any please send me an e-mail and tell me how it all went!

Live Life. Be Positive!

HMHF Holidaying for Mental Health image 4

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Providing you solutions for life’s mental health challenges! 

HMHF keep your mind healthy 1 HMHF keep your mind healthy 4 HMHF keep your mind healthy 3 HMHF keep your mind healthy 2

Yoga for Mental Health

Yoga for Mental Health

I think just about everyone has either heard about or read about the benefits of yoga!

Well today I have embarked on my own journey to try yoga to see what it is like and to see how it may help or improve my mental health. Having suffered from both PTSD and Depression from being exposed to some…….. not nice incidents in my 13 years as a Police Detective I am always keen to try new ways to improve my mental health.

Living on the Sunshine Coast the amazing team from Zenko Yoga in Buddina have provided me with an opportunity to give it a crack and see what I think. I will be updating this article after every session so you can get to read about my thoughts and experiences as hopefully I get better and better at learning to relax.

25/07/16 – Session One

Well after a quick weekend visit to A-Mart All Sports to get my yoga mat I was set and ready to go for my first yoga session.

Waiting outside the centre I bumped into another keen yoga participant who quickly told me how much I would love it and become addicted to the relaxing feeling it brings. We had a quick chat and I managed to let out that it was my first ever yoga session and I was a tad bit nervous. With a warm reassurance that I would be fine the doors opened and in we went.

After getting changed and a short introduction to the instructor I was shown through to where it all happens. My first thoughts………….. My god with the lighting, aroma in the air and music I felt a bit relaxed already.

The instructor (Lauren) showed me where to get put my bags and what extra equipment I would need before finding a spot for me on the floor area where I could clearly see her during the session. Straight up I though this was a great idea as I basically only knew how to do a ‘Downward Dog‘, and that is only because my seven year old daughter showed me how on the floor at home.

With a quick pep-talk Lauren was off and I sat and waited on my new yoga mat as the rest of the class arrived. I must admit although I had absolutely no idea of what was to come the talk from Lauren and just the general atmosphere of the room actually made me feel really comfortable about what I was going to try.

Following what everyone else seemed to be doing I started stretching whilst lying on my yoga mat, then the doors were locked, the lights dimmed and the relaxing music was turned up and the session was starting.

I must admit it was a bit warmer than I expected in the room and I don’t think that was just my perception or an accident but it sure did make me sweat!

My fear of only knowing the Downward Dog position soon went away as Lauren talked everyone through the different positions as she completed them. Whenever I couldn’t see Lauren to see exactly what she was doing I simply looked at one of the other class participants on either side of me to see for guidance.

Sweat? Yes I most certainly did. More than I had ever sweated during a gym workout or even after going for a decent run. I must admit after the first 10 minutes of doing the different positions I thought to my inner-self ‘There is no way I am going to make it through an hour of this’. But I did! Did I fall out of a few of the positions? Yes I did! The nice thing was, no-one cared about my clumsiness, no-one looked sideways at me and no-one judged me.

What was even more reassuring was a number of participants were invited up to the front of the class to take the entire class through their take on a certain position………’The Squirrel‘. Yes the squirrel! I could tell you about the squirrel but that would be talking out of class.

Position after position I focused on my breathing in and out at the right times and I can tell you that no thoughts other than what I was doing at that exact moment were in my head. After a while Lauren came and checked on me and with a few quick words of encouragement it was soon time for the meditation part of the session.

Focusing on breathing in and breathing out whilst lying on floor for the meditation part of the session was deeply relaxing. The odd  instruction to change position was just the prompt to ensure I hadn’t fallen asleep in my very first yoga session.

As we all sat up Lauren finished off the session with a number of positive affirmations which was really nice!

Sitting and writing this article I can feel some soreness from my first yoga session and I am guessing that it will only be more prevalent in the morning and coming days.  What I can say is that if you haven’t tried yoga before then stop waiting, stop wondering and get out and give-it-a-go!

It would have to be the most comfortable I have ever felt in a room filled with strangers.

Below is a quick video I made after finishing my first yoga session.

28/07/16 – Session Two

A few days of soreness after my first yoga session and I was ready to have another go, actually I couldn’t wait to have another go!

Confession Time – I really wanted to try an early morning yoga class for session two. I don’t use an alarm clock and haven’t done so for the last nine years. Why? I have three young children and they normally work better than any alarm clock I have ever used.

Unfortunately we had a challenging night with my youngest child and I missed my window to make it to the early morning class, so the Thursday night class it was!

I felt a lot more comfortable entering the yoga studio for my second class, somewhat a bit cocky I would say……………. until I noticed that Lauren my instructor from session one was not there!

But with a quick introduction to my new instructor (Bettina) I was off into the studio to get set up for my second ever yoga session.

Once again the room was nice and warm and after finding my same spot on the floor I got my equipment. Whilst doing so I asked one of the other participants about a piece of equipment that I saw different people lying on during my first session. After a quick introduction and chat I soon realised, there are some really nice people that do yoga! Warm, welcoming and keen to help a super-newbie like myself.

This time I didn’t have to watch the other people in the room to do my stretches which made me feel a lot more comfortable in my new surrounds.

With a dim of the lights our instructor Bettina kicked off my second ever yoga session. Some different positions this time which included a fair bit of balancing on one leg in different poses and quite a few positions that really targeted and required the use of those core stabilising muscles.  Yes the ones I don’t currently have!

I found it a bit easier to focus on my breathing during my second session but as my fitness is nowhere near where it should be I was still sweating …………… A LOT. I honestly never thought that yoga was such a physical workout? I just thought it was a lot of sitting around holding your hands in different positions. How wrong I was!

I found strength in the fact that I managed to make it through the first ten minutes without thinking I was going to collapse in a heap in front of my other classmates. For those of you who are thinking you have a similar lack of overall fitness like myself, don’t be concerned, it is not an issue. Bettina continually offered people the opportunity to use or go into a resting position/pose called ‘Child’s Pose’.

Child’s Pose is a resting pose that can be used after completing a challenging pose and one that relaxes the mind, body and soul………… and lets you catch your breath! Yes I took up the offer!

Once again I saw a ‘Squirrel’ but this time it was an upside down squirrel. If you have read about my first Yoga for Mental Health Session you will know I can’t tell you about the different squirrel poses, you have to be there to see them.

Mid-way through the session I found myself looking forward to the ten minutes of meditation. Not because I wasn’t enjoying myself but because I was looking forward to really trying to relax as much as possible and the feeling that it brings.

I struggled a bit with fully relaxing during the meditation time in my first session as I don’t think I was able to fully get the white noise out of my head. This time I concentrated harder on listening to my own breathing and allowed my mind to wonder away from my thoughts about work, my week’s activities and what I was going to do the next day.

I don’t think I fully got there again so it is something I am really going to work at, with each session I attend. I find that finishing the yoga session with a meditation period does add to making me feel very relaxed and calm when I leave so I really want to try to get the most out of that part of the session.

I didn’t feel as sore last night after my second session and I honestly felt an overwhelming sense of calm for the rest of my evening at home.

I look forward to continuing with my trial of Yoga for Mental Health as I like what I am feeling and experiencing so far.

25/08/16 – Session Three

Fresh back from a two week family adventure of New Zealand’s South Island and it was time to continue my ‘Yoga for Mental Health’ sessions.

I have been really missing the relaxation from my previous sessions and as strange as it sounds also the slight soreness that I felt the next day. You know the soreness that is there just enough to remind you each time you move that you have done some exercise. Its a good feeling!

With my third session came a different teacher – Max! After a quick introduction at the front counter Max took the time to explain to me what the session would bring a how important it was to concentrate on my breathing.  

With tips in hand and a borrowed yoga mat (Yes I managed to leave mine at home) it was time to head in and get ready for my third yoga session.

Walking through the large frosted glass door into the studio I was met with the same immediate sensory feeling of relaxation as last time. I don’t know if I had forgotten how good the feeling was or simply appreciated how it made me feel right at that moment, but it was good, really good.

With the room warmer than normal, the lights slightly dimmed and some kind of relaxing music playing in the background, simply walking into the environment evoked an overwhelming feeling of calm. Let me tell you this feeling alone is something to be savored!

A number of people were going about their business preparing for the session, some people were simply laying still relaxing and/or meditating and others were doing stretching exercises.

This time I decided to take the relaxing approach, so I simply laid back on my mat and concentrated on my breathing and trying to clear my mind.

Ten or so minutes later Max come in an kicked off the session and with all of my knowledge from my two previous sessions we were off!

Once again this session brought with it a whole range of new positions from my new teacher, Max. Strangely enough I found that my flexibility had increased when it did come to completing some of the poses/positions that I had completed in my earlier sessions.

Once again I found it very beneficial that Max not only completed the poses/positions in front of the class but she also talked the class through the movements and how to complete them. When I couldn’t see Max I simply looked at the people around me for some guidance.

If you haven’t tried yoga before, from experience don’t be deterred by not knowing how to do all the poses and positions. No-one will care, no-one will judge you and you will see other people just like yourself; learning as you go!

With the exercise part of the session over it was time to move into the relaxation/meditation time. I don’t know if all other yoga classes finish of with this but honestly I found it very beneficial. With the lights dimmed even more, the relaxing music turned up and some very positive affirmations from Max this part of the session is not to be underestimated.

Do I think yoga assists with your mental health? Yes I certainly do!

It is not something that you can go to once and think it will fix or cure your mental health condition. But I firmly believe that incorporating regular yoga sessions into your exercise regime will benefit your mental health and assist you in maintaining a healthy mind or simply help you cope with your busy life and all the stresses and pressures that come with it.

So if you haven’t tried yoga, go-on step out of your comfort zone and do something that I can assure you will be beneficial for your mental health. If you have tried yoga before and simply got to busy or let your membership lapse, go-on join back up and get back into it.

Why? Because you are worth it and so is your mental health!

If you are on the Sunshine Coast I can strongly recommend you give Zenko Yoga at Buddina a go, they can be located at www.zenkoyoga.com.au.  

Keep an eye out for me, I will be the one sweating a lot and not quite hitting all the right positions/poses at the right times!

PS – I didn’t see any ‘Squirrels’ in my latest session but I did see a few ‘Pigeons’!

Live Life. Be Positive!

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Providing you solutions for life’s mental health challenges! 

HMHF keep your mind healthy 1 HMHF keep your mind healthy 4 HMHF keep your mind healthy 3 HMHF keep your mind healthy 2

Life’s Mental Health Speed Bumps

Life’s Mental Health Speed Bumps

For most road users speed bumps are small sharp bumps in the road that we slow down for, quickly bounce over and then forget about as we carry on with our journey.

But have you ever seen someone in a low sprung sports car trying to get over a speed bump? For them, they can look and feel like mountains rather than the small sharp bumps all other drivers see them as.

Coming across speed bumps in your mental health journey can sometimes feel like trying to navigate that low sprung sports car over a mountain rather than the small speed bump in the road experienced with most other cars.

Dealing with life’s problems or challenges can often be daunting when you are ‘Running through the Trenches so to say. The relentless daily grind, non-stop worrying and constant thinking that you just can’t find a way over or around the mountain sized speed bump that has suddenly appeared in front of you, can be all-consuming.

But it doesn’t have to be! In this article I will share with you a number of techniques and solutions you can use to turn those mountains back into ordinary everyday speed bumps in your mental health journey. These are solutions and techniques that I have used myself in my own mental health journey.

Perspective:

Putting something into perspective is a powerful technique and one that can assist you in putting some objective context around your current problem.  What do I mean?  Upon coming across a problem that I clearly thought was a mountain rather than a speed bump and one that I feared that I could not get over I stopped and thought back to another bigger problem that I had encountered a few years prior.

I reminded myself that, at the time of the first problem a few years earlier I thought my world was ending. Thoughts such as; was I going to lose my job, how would we pay the mortgage, can you access your superannuation in a hurry and could we last long enough for my income protection waiting period to pass?

For all intents and purposes, I felt like my world was ending and that there was no way I was going to be able to get over or around this mountain. But I did, one step at a time! Now whenever I get that feeling again I remind my inner-self that I managed to get over the previous problem that I thought  was impossible, that I came through it with flying colours and that if I can get through something like that then I can get through this problem.

Believe me I have used this technique more than a few times in the last few years and it has allowed me to put a different perspective on the mental health challenge that was in front of me at the time. Being able to continually reminisce so to speak about getting over that much larger previous problem gave my inner self the courage to believe that I would get through my current challenge……………… And yes I did!

“It is useful occasionally to look at the past to gain a perspective on the present” (Fabian Linden).

Timeout:

Timeout can have different meanings for different people but in general it means exactly that; taking some time out from your busy world.

Taking some time out from work for a week or two to simply gather your thoughts, do some intense exercise or grab the family and get away up the beach somewhere, where you don’t get mobile phone reception.

Having the opportunity to camp on a quiet uninhabited stretch of beach, to sit and dig your feet in the warm soft sand and look out at the ocean rolling in and out for hours on end, to be able to stare upwards at night at the masses of stars you forgot existed or to explore the surrounding sand hills for that special spot that looks like it has never been inhabited before. This is the type of timeout I am talking about!

HMHF Life Mental Health Speed Bumps 5   HMHF Life Mental Health Speed Bumps 2    HMHF Life Mental Health Speed Bumps 3 HMHF Life Mental Health Speed Bumps 4


Noosa’s beautiful Double Island Point – June 2016

When was the last time you did something like this?

Talk:

Talking is amazing! Talking to your partner, talking to your friends and family or talking to a professional. It all helps! Keeping problems bottled up inside tends to magnify them in your own head.  They can become distorted and blown out of all proportions when you keep them bottled up inside.

Lifting the lid on your problems and sharing them can have a positive effect on your mental state.

Click on the following link of my first article 5 x Ways to keep your mind healthy for some more information on the benefits of talking to people about your challenges, along with a few other useful solutions to keep your mind healthy.

Remember “A problem shared is a problem halved” (French Proverb)

So there you have it two ways to assist in turning your seemingly unconquerable mountain back into an everyday speed bump!

Solutions and techniques like the two I have just explained should be thought of as tools in your mental health kit bag. Your mental health kit bag should be full of lots of different tools just like the two I have mentioned. Tools that you can grab out and put to use at any time they are needed to assist in getting you through one of life’s mental health challenges.

Some tools are simple and easy to use tools, but some might need the assistance of medical professionals, such as medication.  You might also find you have to use a number of them at one time in order to get on top of your current mental health challenge. You might also find that when you have used a tool or technique, that you just might have to use it again straight away.

Remember in 12 months, 2 years or even 5 years from now you will look back at this current mental health challenge and realise that it was but just a speed bump, merely a blip on the radar of life!

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Strategies to improve your Mental Health

HMHF keep your mind healthy 1 HMHF keep your mind healthy 4 HMHF keep your mind healthy 3 HMHF keep your mind healthy 2

How to answer ‘The Hardest Question’

How to answer ‘The Hardest Question’

I can remember a time when the hardest question to answer wasn’t on a test or exam, it wasn’t in a job interview and it wasn’t by a Solicitor or Barrister whilst I was under cross examination in the witness box!

No! It was a common question that would be asked by a friend, acquaintance or old work colleague when I would bump into them at the plaza, grocery shopping or just picking my kids up from day-care.

The question? “So what are you doing these days?” Yes! I can remember a time when this was the hardest question in my life to answer! A question that I dreaded, the question that I feared the most and one that would immediately come into my head the second I saw someone out in public that I knew.

Why? Because at that time in my life I was dealing with a mental health condition (PTSD) that prevented me from working. It also forced me to take 10 months out of the working world whilst I sorted myself out and got on top of things.

Ten months off work! WOW! You’re probably think right about now! Sounds like a holiday that comes with sleep-ins, a lot of relaxing, hanging out the shops or the beach? I can assure you it was anything but! To put you in the picture, in brief it was almost the exact opposite to to what I just stated at the start of the above sentence.

The Problem

The main problem was where I lived. I lived and still do live in one of the most beautiful locations on earth, the Sunshine Coast which is located in Queensland, Australia.  The beautiful part was not the problem. The problem was the fact that due to the size of the Sunshine Coast and that I had lived here for a considerable period of my life, it was almost impossible for me to venture out and not bump into someone that I knew.

The Options

  1. Don’t go out
  2. Avoid bumping into people I knew when I was out (Yes you guessed it – I hid from people when I seen them)
  3. Avoid answering the question
  4. Lie
  5. Tell them the truth

The Solution…………Or should I say ‘Solutions’!

Looking back at it now funnily enough I actually did all of them at different times throughout what I call my 10 month work timeout mental health challenge. Before you focus in on No. 4 and start thinking that I am promoting lying, let me say that I will clarify this one in more detail before the end of this article.

Below is how I used each one of the above solutions during my 10 month hiatus.
1. Don’t go out

HMHF Dont go out

The easiest solution to choose and one I think, after speaking to other people that have been through or who are currently going through a similar journey to mine is always chosen and normally first up. Retreating away from the world was for me, all I wanted to do and all I actually did for a number of month’s straight up after I stopped working.

I basically locked myself in our house and hid away from the world hoping no-one would notice and I could magically re-appear when all was well again. The problem for me was that when you have three very young children and a wife that works, at some point in time you physically have to get out of the house to help out.

Summary – Not going out at all is a very common solution and the one that is normally chosen first up, but it can’t last.

2. Avoid bumping into people you know when you are out

Yes this does mean ‘hiding’. Hiding in shop windows, hiding behind clothes racks, hiding behind a book or paper at a coffee shop or hiding behind that fake telephone call that you just happen to receive!

Avoidance albeit better than not getting out at all is still challenging and it can’t last, at some point as I did you will walk smack bang into someone you know. Luck will have it, you will be at a location where you can’t use any of your 10 year old self’s ninja skills to suddenly disappear.

Summary – Playing the avoidance game is certainly one step better than not getting out at all. But know at some point it isn’t going to work and you will come face-to-face with someone who is going to ask you ‘The hardest question to answer’!

3. Avoid answering the question

To use this solution means you have migrated out of the house, back into the world and are prepared to bump into that old work colleague or acquaintance you haven’t seen for a year. I like to refer to this art of avoidance as ‘Deflection’.

To put it simply, this means deflecting the question when it is asked away from yourself and putting it back to the person in the manner of a question to them! For a while when I was asked ‘The Hardest Question to answer’ my standard response was “Oh not much at all really, what about yourself, what have you been up to?”

Of course this technique gets harder when the person asking the question asks a pointed or specific question about what you are doing work-wise. That is when it all starts to unravel and gets a bit hard to successfully use this technique.

Summary – Avoidance or Deflection techniques can be very useful when you are asked general questions about what you have been up to. But the technique can be harder and harder to use successfully when asked specific questions, particularly specific questions about around work.

4. Lie

Ahhhh good old No. 4 Lying! Now hear me out before you pass judgement on me on this one. Because the small manipulation of the truth can be vastly different to an out-and-out lie!

Let me explain! I can say that I never once when asked came out with an out-and-out lie as an answer about what I was doing. When I was not working I never answered the question with a straight out lie, like ‘I am studying to be an airline pilot or I am working away in the mines and I am just at home at the moment on my off weeks’. 

What I did do was use a technique taught to me by a psychologist I was seeing at the time. A technique that was centred on the fact that it was my life, my journey and I had the right to determine what I told other people about it, and when.

What I did do was have what I call my story sorted and rehearsed in my head so I could comfortably trot it out as my answer to ‘The Hardest Question to answer’ whenever it was asked.

So what was my story? Nothing outrageous, outlandish or unbelievable it was simply a rehearsed response that was centred on something I was comfortable with. For me it was – ‘I am just having break for a while before I decide what I want to get into next’. I would then give a reason why I moved on from the last job or career I was doing and then quickly change the topic and move onto discussing something else.

So as you can see while I may have called No. 4 lying, my use of this solution was not to tell an outright lie. But to give an answer that allowed me to get away from giving the person asking the question a full and detailed account of what was going on. When I explained that I was having a break for a while before deciding what I wanted to get into next, I just did not elaborate why I was taking a that break!

Summary – I don’t suggest out-and-out lying at all. I have no doubt that if you do make up some big lie about what you are doing that it will, at some point come back to bite you. Consider having a generalised story or version that you are comfortable with, memorised so that you can trot out on demand. Remember it is your life and your journey, if you don’t want to tell every person you bump into what is going on……… then simply don’t!

No. 5 Tell them the truth

HMHF How to answer The Hardest Question 2

Easier said than done I can tell you! But like all of the other solutions there was a time in my 10 month mental health challenge that I did use this solution and as you may have already guessed it was right towards the end of that 10 month period.

Telling people who you bump into at the shops, a birthday party or social gathering that you are not working because you are suffering from a mental health condition is hard, very hard, there are no other words to describe it.

Some people may never get to a position in life where they feel they are comfortable using this solution. If that is you can I say: ‘Don’t give up your time will come’!

There may also be some people who may never choose to use this solution and that is entirely their choice. What I can say from experience is that when you open your heart up the world the people in it are a lot more understanding than you think. You may be pleasantly surprised with the response you get!

Summary – This is the hardest solution to use, but the most rewarding!

What I learnt from my 10 month work timeout and associated mental health challenge! 

  • Sometimes in life the simplest of questions can be the hardest to answer.
  • There is always more than one answer/solution to a problem.
  • Things will get better, it may not seem like it when you are ‘running through the trenches’ so to speak, but it will. Just keep running!
  • Your life and journey is exactly that ‘Yours’! The rest of the world only has to know what you want to tell them, when you are ready!

E-mail me directly at stuart@healthymindhealthyfuture.com  if you have any other solutions to answering ‘The Hardest Question’, I would love to hear from you!

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Guiding you through life’s challenges! 

HMHF keep your mind healthy 1 HMHF keep your mind healthy 4 HMHF keep your mind healthy 3 HMHF keep your mind healthy 2

Feel your troubles float away – My personal review!

Feel your troubles float away – My personal review!

So this is it, time to give it a go and see how it feels!

These were my final thoughts as I parked my car and walked up to the unassuming building located in a semi-industrial estate in Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast.

A few weeks prior I had never even heard of ‘floating’ or had any idea of its potential benefits for relaxation, recovery and mental health. It was my wife who actually told me about a program she had watched on channel 7’s ‘Sunday Night’ about a war veteran who suffered from PTSD. The program talked about how he used ‘surf therapy’ to assist him with his PTSD, it also then went onto  talk about ‘float tanks’ and their benefits for helping people who were highly stressed or dealing with PTSD.

So with a bit of googling we found ‘The Float Space’  located in Maroochydore which was the type of therapy that the television show had been talking about and also happened to be the only one of its kind on the Sunshine Coast.

Next step – I did a bit of research on what ‘floating’ actually is and what do they claim it could do for someone like me has who been previously diagnosed with PTSD and Depression and is always looking for ways to relax and destress from my very busy life.

I couldn’t find any negative information about ‘floating’ but I still had a few lingering questions:

  • What happens if I fall asleep, will I drown?
  • Will I feel claustrophobic?
  • What if I can’t ‘float’?
  • Do I really have to do it naked….….. really………. seriously?
  • Do they change the water between sessions or am I lying in the same water as the last person?
  • Do you do your float with the different colours on inside the tank?

So off I went reading the articles on the website and watching the demonstration videos and reading reviews and blogs from other people who had been and actually given it a go. Thankfully all of my questions were answered when I went through the Float Space’s website.

Decision – Bite the bullet and give it a go!

The booking was quite an easy process as The Float Space  use a system where you simply select your float room (choice of 3 individual and identical rooms) and a few other options around other complementary services and you are then given the available times left to choose from.

Float time – So in I went through the simple unassuming front door into a small but very nice front counter area.

After meeting the owners I was given the mandatory forms to fill out as you would expect when you go to a health retreat or centre. What I didn’t expect was to be then given an iPad with a set of headphones to watch an introductory instructional video! Quite Cool I thought!

Click on the following button to watch a quick interview with Janina and Felipe, the owners of The Float Space 

Then off we went into my float room for a quick run through of the do’s & don’ts of floating.

The float room had a nice shower, which you have to use before and after your float session and organic hair and body wash products are provided.

You get a set of your own ear plugs and you also get shown the basic functions of the float tank itself, things like the emergency button, light button and a water spray bottle which is located inside the tank.

With a nervous yes, yes, yes to my instructions I was left to myself to start my relaxation adventure in float room 3!

Believe me it is quite a funny sensation putting your hand into the water as it is very dense and you need to push down with some force to touch the bottom of the pod.

I chose to do my float in total darkness but you can do it with the float tank rotating through a number of colour which are meant to be relaxing and create a colour therapy. The float starts off with 5 minutes of relaxing music which also comes back on 5 minutes before the end of the float to wake you up if you are asleep.

HMHF Blue float tank HMHF Green float tank HMHF Pink float tank HMHF Purple float tank

Tip 1 – When you step into the float tank don’t put both your hands into the water like I did.  Why? Because when you then reach up with your wet hand to close the float tank the water drips down on your face and it stings your eyes.

Tip 2 – When you start floating don’t worry about slowly bumping into the side of the float tank, it will slow down and actually stop in a few minutes when you stop wriggling. And yes there is plenty of room in there, I am just over 6ft tall and had plenty of spare room.

Tip 3 – It’s ok if you fall asleep, you won’t drown! (I know this personally as I did fall asleep a few times during my float).

Tip 4 – Try the different floating positions (arms by your side, arms on your stomach or arms above your head) during your float time. I found floating with my arms by my side as the most comfortable for me after I got used to my neck being arched back a bit more than usual.

Tip 5 – Don’t wear your most glamourous clothes to do a float as if you do happen to get some of the float water on your clothes it does leave a salty stain on them, it’s ok it does wash out.

The verdict – I was nervous to start with and found it a bit hard to relax but after a few minutes of just lying there listening to the introduction music I was on my way. After the music stopped the sense of being in total darkness just listening to and concentrating on your breathing is so relaxing in itself, it allowed my mind to drift away and simply think about nothing!

The time in the dark flew by even with me experimenting with the different arm positions to find the best one for me.

I floated perfectly in the 550kg laden, 10 inch deep warm water which ended up sitting just around the outside of my face area, and yes I did fall asleep at least twice and I didn’t drown!

No I didn’t get claustrophobic and am glad that I chose to do my first float in the total darkness to experience the deep relaxation that it brings.

The big question – Did I feel relaxed and do I think help with PTSD, Depression and generally relaxing from a busy lifestyle? Definitely! Floating is an experience that is honestly like nothing else I have ever come across or ever experienced before in my life!

I felt like I disappeared into the never-never for an hour only to return very relaxed, calm and chilled out. This was only further enhanced by the upstairs relax lounge where you get to go after your float to sit, relax and sip on the days specific brand of specially made herbal tea.

Where to from here? Well next time I will be adding another service from the selection (Sauna, Bio-mat, and Massage) to go with my float at The Float Space  to add to the relaxing destressing experience.

Warning – Nothing good is ever without a warning section! My only warning to you is, if you are going to do a float session think about what you are going to be doing afterwards. Why? Because after my float I found myself wondering around the Sunshine Plaza in a daze of relaxation wanting to curl up on a lounge and just chill out and watch the world go ever so slowly by!

Final words – Go ahead and have a GO at floating if you need to relax, destress, recover and/or cope with PTSD, Depression, a busy life or the like. I for one will be going back!

Contact me directly at stuart@healthymindhealthyfuture.com  if you have any further questions you would like to ask me about my float session. #HealthyMind #HMHFuture

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Guiding you through life’s challenges! 

DECLARATION – Prior to my float I have not had any dealings with The Float Space, its owners or its staff. I paid for my float session in full and am not receiving any type of payment for the completion of my review. In essence I wanted to have a go at ‘floating’ for myself and share my experience with you to see if floating may assist with dealing with PTSD, Depression and life’s general stresses.

HMHF keep your mind healthy 1 HMHF keep your mind healthy 4 HMHF keep your mind healthy 3 HMHF keep your mind healthy 2

3 Ways to boost your job opportunities!

3 Ways to boost your job opportunities!

To say that today’s job market is competitive is an understatement!

How do I know this? Because I have been on all sides of the job fence, I have seen firsthand how hard it is to get a job, to get that face-to- face time of opportunity in front of a potential employer to sell yourself.

Not to mention the disappointment of not receiving any type of feedback whatsoever afterwards to assist you with improving your resume for future applications.

From an employer’s perspective I know firsthand how hard it is to stay focused when sorting through 135 job applications only to see generic application after generic application from potential employees. Potential employees thinking that you have the time to see how fantastic they may well be through their one-size fits all resume.

But all’s not lost; there are some activities you can do, activities that cost you absolutely nothing except your time. These free activities may just put you in front of the crowd or give you the edge against one of your fellow job hunters. Let’s look at some of these preparation activities now in a bit more detail! Remembering that they cost nothing, not a cracker, just your time, enthusiasm and want to gain employment!

Notice I didn’t write ‘Interview Preparation’? Why? Because there is a lot of other preparation you can do well before you even start thinking the interview stage, we will cover interview preparation in another upcoming article.

Research

Take the time to do some research on the company that you are applying to work at. If you haven’t go access to the internet at home check out places like your local Library, Centrelink or employment agency to see if they have short sessions you can book for free. If you haven’t got access to the internet at all from one the those means and the company is local to you, go in and see if they have any brochures or information at their site office or front counter that may give you some information.

Look up the company’s website, learn what they are really the about, what programs they may be involved in, what projects they have or are about to start working on, what technology do they use, what charities do they support or how do they treat their employees.

Follow the company and its staff on LinkedIn. Most importantly here notice that I wrote ‘follow‘ the company and its staff on LinkedIn? Following is different to stalking, annoying or asking for a job the minute you manage to become a connection on LinkedIn with someone. The constant contacting or asking for a job approach simply, does not work and will only serve to alienate you from the company and its employees.

Only this week I accepted someone as a connection on LinkedIn and literally within 3 minutes of pressing the connect button I received a sales e-mail asking me to sign-up to a service. Not cool!

HMHF 3 Ways to boost your job opportunities 2

What do the above activities do for you? They allow you to have a better understanding of the company that you want to work at and what they are really about. They allow you to familiarise yourself with their activities and even adjust your resume or covering letter accordingly so that you can include information that may strike a chord with the recruiter or hiring manager.

Contact

Here is a sometimes forgotten idea in today’s tech savvy world, ring them!  If you are able to; go ahead pick up the phone and ring and speak to the company contact who is advertising the job. I understand that this not always an option when applying for jobs but believe me it is a very underestimated approach that is rarely used in today’s online world.

What does ringing potential employers do and why should you do it? Simply, it allows you to make a personal connection and to being in a one-on-one position to ask questions like:

  • Is it a new role or is it as a result of internal staff movement or promotion; or
  • Is there anybody currently doing the role or is it vacant; or
  • Is there anything in particular that you are looking for from the candidate for this role?

3 Ways to boost your job opportunities 3

Believe it or not you will be surprised how many potential employers will give you some important information about the role if you simply ask the question. This is information that you won’t get from reading an online add or looking up the company’s website. For example it could be something like:

  • Yes we are looking for someone who has previous experience with fixing pneumatic power tools and equipment, as our plant uses a large amount of pneumatics tools; or
  • We would ideally like someone who has been able to build good working relationships with the state or federal regulators as we operate in a highly regulated environment; or
  • The person who is successful should have a strong working knowledge of change management as our organisation is embarking on a period of considerable change.

Those three snippets alone have provided you with information that may not be readily available to other candidates from just reading the job advertisement or looking on the internet. It also allows you to adjust your covering letter and resume accordingly so that you can provide specific examples incorporating the provided information so you can stand out from the crowd.

If nothing else you have just put you name in that person’s mind, if they are further involved in the recruitment process that connection may just be the difference between the person taking the bit extra time and effort to read through your application because they liked the fact that you took it upon yourself to ring up and ask some questions.

Industry or Community Events

The company that you want to work for may be involved in industry or community events. By now you may have already identified this by using one of the above mentioned techniques to find out more about your new potential employer.

Industry events can be things like trade shows, job fairs, open days or the like. These offer further opportunities for you to get more information about the actual company and also the possibility of making a connection with someone who already works there. Making that connection at a trade show or job fair may just be the ticket you need to get your first connection on LinkedIn with an employee from that company.

Don’t forget how you present yourself at that opportunistic moment is how you will be remembered, so make it count.

HMHF 3 Ways to boost your job opportunities 3

Community events may be things like charity events, golf days, money raising lunches or sponsorship of certain sporting events where there may be company staff in attendance. Once again attending events like this and making a connection at the right time might just be your ticket to a connection at that company. You may be able to glean some information from the staff at the event about the company whilst showing your genuine interest and enthusiasm.

So there you have it 3 totally free activities that may well boost your job opportunities. So go on give it a go you might be surprised with the result!

Contact me directly at stuart@healthymindhealthyfuture.com  if you would like to discuss how I can assist you with this or any other matters relating to changing careers. #ChangingCareers #HMHFuture

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Guiding you through life’s challenges! 

HMHF keep your mind healthy 1 HMHF keep your mind healthy 4 HMHF keep your mind healthy 3 HMHF keep your mind healthy 2

12 Years to walk a mile!

12 Years to walk a mile!

Empathy! We’ve all heard about it, we’ve all been taught about it……… You know, the old adage of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.

The first time I remember being taught that empathy is different to sympathy was in school.  We were taught that the main difference is that sympathy is feeling sorry for someone as opposed to feeling what they actually feel.

I distinctly remember working out what sympathy is not! Sympathy is not something that a marching drill Sergeant gives you at 5.30am on a cold May morning when you are a 22 year old Police recruit. Not just that, but you are a 22 year old Police recruit in the front of the line trying to march in step whilst you have horrific stomach cramps after a bad tummy bug. So how does this tie into me knowing what sympathy is not?

Well I can tell you that when the cranky drill Sgt is continually poking you with a broom handle and screaming at you to stand up straight,  it doesn’t come across as very ‘sympathetic.’  I will never forget what he said when I told him I was not well. His exact words “What do you want? Sympathy! Sympathy? If you want sympathy look it up in the dictionary, you will find it between shit & syphilis” and that was the day I learnt about what sympathy is not.

Empathy on the other hand is something that I thought I knew the meaning of and something that I had heard of continually throughout my 13 year police career as a skill that was good to have as a police officer. Of course I thought I had it sorted, mastering the difference between walking in someone’s shoes and feeling sorry for them.

I was wrong.

It would take 12 years between the initial event and the second event for me to finally really experience the feeling of true empathy and I can tell you the feeling hit me like a tonne of bricks.  I have had this story inside me for the last 5 years, wanting to come out, waiting for the right opportunity and personal strength to be able to share it with the likes of you.

That time is now! 

The first event

It was during 1999 whilst working as a police officer at Redcliffe in Qld whilst on a week of night work. I had been in the police service since December 1997 and was detailed to attend a job involving a male person who was threatening self-harm. My partner and I did the normal stuff as expected and removed the items from the man so that this could not occur.

Then came the talking part of it, to find out what was going on and how we could resolve the situation and provide the person with the assistance required. I still remember to this day the guy was separated from his wife and had a few kids, he had had enough and wanted to end it all because he couldn’t deal with all of his issues anymore.

Using my newly taught empathy skills I talked to him saying how important life was and that there was nothing that could be so bad that could not be fixed.  I asked him to consider how badly it would affect his family should he choose to take his own life. As this was occurring, the sun was starting to come up over the ocean, and it was simply stunning.

HMHF 12 Years to walk a mile 2

So I turned the focus of conversation to the beautiful sunrise and how amazing it was and used my standard line of ‘the sun will still come up tomorrow’, and that ‘as bad as it was life would still go-on and he would get through it‘.  Followed by another comment about how amazing the sun rise was, to which he looked at it and then promptly told me that it meant nothing to him and that he couldn’t care less if the sun didn’t come up tomorrow. He simply couldn’t see any beauty in the sunrise at all!

This comment went over my head and I continued on with my standard approach to assessing his mental health state which ultimately resulted in my partner and I taking and admitting him to the mental health facility attached to a hospital in Chermside, Brisbane.

Although attending a considerable amount of similar incidents over my 13 year police career, that one just stuck in my mind. I couldn’t understand why someone who seemed to have everything needed to have a happy life was thinking of taking his own.  I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t see the beauty in the amazing sunrise that was occurring right in front of him.

Finding the true meaning of empathy, first hand!

Fast forward to mid-2011 when I was going through my own mental health challenges, I was in the middle of a 10 month period where I didn’t work whilst I dealt with the effects of PTSD and subsequently depression.  Funnily enough it was as a result of certain events that I was exposed to during my 13 years as a police officer that resulted in my ‘time-out’ from the working world.

Time-out that turned me into almost a prisoner in my own home, too scared to go out and do the normal things in life in case I bumped into someone that I knew and they asked me that fateful question………..’So what are you doing these days?’

I had worked up to my simple set routine of going out and finding my little out-of-the-way coffee shops to read the paper and watch the world go by. For more details on that idea click on the following text for my full article Blend in with your favourite bean’.

So there I was one morning having finished off my early morning house chores and setting out for my daily routine drive. By all accounts it was a stunning morning with the sun rising up into the sky through the clouds making what most people would think as an amazing picture.

Driving out of my street I stopped to give way to the oncoming traffic and whilst looking for the oncoming cars I glanced at the sky. Vividly, I can remember thinking to myself ‘those colours look nice‘ but not actually experiencing any type of joy, connection or appreciation for it whatsoever.

I turned out onto the road and started driving in that exact direction so the rising sun was straight in front of me. My next thoughts to myself were ‘if I didn’t feel so depressed I would probably really enjoy that sunrise’ but basically it may as well as be in black and white and really ‘I couldn’t care less if the sun didn’t come up tomorrow’.

HMHF 12 Years to walk a mile 3

Then it hit me.

My mind brought me rushing back to that early morning back in 1999 when I was a young police officer trying to tell this man about how beautiful the sunrise was and being frustrated because he couldn’t care less about it. How I thought I was using my best empathy skills to understand what he was going through and offer support, but he wouldn’t take on my ever so helpful, worldly advice. Reality was, I had no idea what he was going through or how he felt…….. Until I went through it myself!

Until I looked up at a sunrise and couldn’t see its beauty.  Until I couldn’t care less if the sun didn’t come up the next day.  It truly meant nothing to me and I simply felt like a black cloud had descended down over me and everything in my world.

Now, I understood.

So what did I do? I pulled my car over, stared at the sunrise and apologised out loud with a tear in my eye to the man I had tried to help some 12 years earlier but really had no idea what he was going through or feeling. I spoke aloud how I wish I would have had that understanding and appreciation 12 years ago and if I had, how differently I could have interacted with this man and supported him in his time of need during his challenge with mental health.

At that single moment in my life I found out the true meaning of empathy, the true meaning of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. What it really means to feel empathy for someone going through a tough time and how if you are able to feel that true empathy would it change how you dealt with them.

Empathy goes beyond sympathy  and it’s not possible to experience each person’s life struggles in order to understand them.  Where sympathy could be described as ‘feeling for’ someone, empathy could be described as ‘feeling with’ that person, through the use of visualising yourself in their position and really listening to them.  Rather than having the man listen to me, I should have listened more closely to him.  I was telling him how he ‘should’ feel, rather than listening to and engaging with how he ‘did’ feel’.

It rocked me to my core and gave me a new appreciation for the struggles some people go through in life and how we sometimes think we can understand what they are going through but unless we have actually been there ourselves, I mean really been there ourselves, we really don’t and can’t appreciate what they are going through.

My self-reflection time was up, so with a tear in my eye and a new found appreciation of the true meaning of empathy I flicked my indicator on and pulled back out into the traffic and went on my way to the predetermined secret out-of-the-way coffee shop to work on my own mental health challenge.

I hope my 12 year journey in finding out the true meaning of empathy assists you, one of your family or friends in being able to empathise better with someone going through one of life’s challenges.

If you have a similar story or journey you would like to share please drop me a line at stuart@healthymindhealthyfuture.com. 

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Mental Health | Educator | Speaker | Writer

HMHF keep your mind healthy 1 HMHF keep your mind healthy 4 HMHF keep your mind healthy 3 HMHF keep your mind healthy 2

Start tomorrow, with today!

Start tomorrow, with today!

Have a think for a moment about when you got out of bed this morning; are you one of the lucky ones who leapt out of bed ready to tackle the world and all that it brings? Or did you wait for everyone else to get out of bed and get going for the day while you stayed under the sanctity of the blankets until all was quiet again and the clock on the wall was approaching midday?

All the while wishing and hoping that the strange and annoying upset stomach that you seem to get at the same time every morning will go away and not come back tomorrow? How do I know about the latter and how hard it is? Because I have personally been there, I have been the one who got the upset stomach every morning, the one who waited until everyone had left for the day before having a hot shower, agonising over what productive task I could possibly achieve for the day and then slipping back into bed with a feeling of defeat and frustration.

I can still remember the feeling of having to force myself out of bed at midday, the feeling of security and relief that I was finally alone in our house, locked away from the world’s prying eyes and probing questions. Questions about why I wasn’t working, how could I be on holidays for so long and why had I lost so much weight.

So how did I make myself get out of bed at a reasonable time, if at all? Well to start with, I had to sort out getting a full night’s sleep so I didn’t have to sleep half the day away because I had been awake most of the night. I can tell you some things that didn’t help; thirteen previous years of shift work, alcohol, alcohol and more alcohol (contrary to popular belief) and the use of sleeping tablets, both prescribed and natural products.

Well I guess that last statement is not entirely true! Prescription sleeping tablets and their natural/organic cousins did help, they helped me get a few nights sleep here and there until my body woke up to what was going on and started building up a tolerance to both versions of them. So as most sleep deprived people do, I upped the dosage or changed the type of sleeping tablet, unfortunately this only fooled my body for a very short period of time.

Back to the alcohol solution (or attempted solution) to assist me with my sleeping problems. Well at first I thought I was on a winner, happy days……… so to say, not only did the nightly alcohol make me feel semi-human again it made me feel happy and relaxed whilst I was drinking it and it initially helped me get to sleep.

The problem was it didn’t keep me asleep and I found myself waking after a few hours and not being able to get back to sleep, along with waking up with a headache, the cost, and my body doing that annoying thing again of building up a tolerance to my so-called solution. So the cycle started. More alcohol to get the same amount of sleep as the night before, more headaches and more money to buy the increase in alcohol needed for that few hours of sleep.

What else did this do? Well it made my ability to push myself to get out of bed the next morning all that bit harder. Take it from me! Alcohol won’t fix your sleeping problems and subsequently won’t help you get out of bed in the morning when you are dealing with mental health challenges. Imagine my surprise that I had to find this out from personal experience and have since found out that the medical world have known this to be true for years!

Enough about what didn’t work; let’s talk about what did work for me. How did I find a manageable sleep solution that allowed me to get out of bed in the morning? I must stress this is what worked for me, it may not work as good for you or hopefully it may work better for you than it did for me, either way, please ensure you consult your appropriate medical physician for a review before embarking on your own journey.

I wish I could say it was one specific thing that helped me, that there is a magic pill or potion that made me feel fantastic in the morning. Fantastic enough not to have an upset stomach every single damn morning, fantastic enough to have me leaping out of bed ready to take on the world for another day! Reality is; that is not the case. But like most good things in life the hard work was worth it.

For me it was a combination of different approaches that allowed me to eventually wake up with an element of confidence that I could face the day, get out of bed and function before the two hands on the wall clock hit the number twelve.

Medication – Yes you guessed it medication.  Not just any medication I am talking about the right medication for my health issues. For me that was mental health medication that had a slight sedative effect whilst addressing the chemical imbalance in my brain, thus assisting me in my quest for a better night’s sleep. Guidance from a GP is essential and also, critical to this process is being honest with your GP.

They can’t assist if they don’t know what they’re dealing with. Don’t leave out any details in what you are experiencing. Make an appointment and don’t waste the appointment by understating your symptoms.  If the words are too difficult to say out loud, write them down.

Music – When I found I couldn’t shut my brain off at night I would listen to music on an iPod whilst in bed. I would just set my iPod to random and let it go, it was a happy distraction from the chatter in my mind.  I often found myself waking up in the morning with my ear phones still in, all tangled up in the cord with the iPod battery flat, but waking up, meant I had slept and that was a positive.

Acceptance – Acceptance within my inner-self that I was not alone in having a mental health challenge, that I was not the only one in the world going through an issue like this. Acceptance that although it was bloody tough running through the trenches of my mental health challenge, I would get through it and look back on this time and realise that it was a mere blip on my life’s radar.

Determination – I should just clarify, not just determination, I am talking about sheer dogged determination. Determination to latch onto and drag to the surface, the tiniest glimmer of the normal, confident, capable person that I remember looking at in the mirror. Determination that you have, when you have two young kids that miss their old daddy, their old, happy, driven, fun-loving daddy.

Not their current withdrawn, sleep all-day, always cranky daddy! You would think this alone would be enough to push someone out of the morning doldrums, but believe me when I say mental health challenges can be all-consuming and very hard to get through without the right, support and guidance.

In one of my previous articles ‘5 Ways to keep your mind healthy’ I also touched on a number of other ways to keep your mind healthy, such as talking about issues, intense exercise, meditation and yoga, concentrating on small milestones and of course medication as also mentioned above.

If I can leave you with a last thought.  Studies show that mental illnesses can result from lack of sleep and mental illness in itself can cause sleep disruption.  It’s not a fair cycle, but it is a cycle none the less.  Activity of any kind and ideally a combination which includes physical activity, allows your brain and body to tire, which allows your sleep pattern to return towards a natural cycle.

Your daily activity levels are a part of what dictate your pattern for the evening for winding down and your evening routine and sleep quality, affect the following day and your ability to get up and start the day.  That is because in-order to get yourself out of that bed in the morning and back onto the road to recovery, you have to consider the activity levels of the day before.  The healthy sleep cycle starts the day before.  Start simple, start achievable, start sleeping.

If you would like to know more about this subject or share your story with me I would love to hear from you, drop me a line at stuart@healthymindhealthyfuture.com or a tweet at @HMHFuture.

Life Life. Be Positive!

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Strategies to improve your Mental Health

HMHF keep your mind healthy 1 HMHF keep your mind healthy 4 HMHF keep your mind healthy 3 HMHF keep your mind healthy 2

Want a job? Read your resume!

Want a job? Read your resume!

Ever wondered why you’re just not getting any call backs or interviews for the jobs you are applying for? My question is ‘how many resumes do you have and how often do you change that resume?’ If your answer is ‘one and never’ then this article may just be the ticket you need to  get you onto that short list or called up for that interview.  The bonus is that you can make the change!

How do I know this? Because I have been through this myself from three different angles!  Yes I have been in the position where I have thrown my one and only resume that says how great I am, at no less than 67 jobs without a result, not even an interview or call back.  Not..a..cracker!

I have been in the position where I applied for three jobs, two of which were regional management roles in fields that I had never directly worked in and was shortlisted and interviewed for all three of them.

As a manager, employing staff, I have also been in the position numerous times where I have had to wade through literally hundreds of job applications to identify a short list of less than ten.

My experience in changing between the first and second scenarios went on to allow me to make informed decisions in the third task. To put it simply, you need more than one resume! You can’t have one resume and expect it to address all of the job or selection criteria for every job you apply for. You can’t rely on the recruiter or employer to have the time to read through your generic spiel about how amazing you are and how your skills from your previous roles may be transferable into the role you are applying for. It just doesn’t work like that.

The same line of thinking should be reflected in your covering letter as well, you have to get away from the one-size fits all, generic, I am great, sweeping generalised statement of a covering letter. Why? Because it simply won’t get read passed the first few sentences or at all, particularly if they use an electronic scanning program and it certainly won’t make you stand out to the recruiter or employer who is wading through hundreds of other resumes.

The one main reason I didn’t get a single call back or interview from those 67 job applications is simple, I didn’t specifically address the selection criteria for the job in both my resume and my covering letter. I didn’t use specific outcome based information on how I had met the selection criteria with experience from my previous roles.

Unfortunately I was relying on Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity “doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results” to get me a job, hence it didn’t work! Think to yourself how, much did you change your resume and covering letter for the last job you applied for? Was it just the address line on the covering letter or did you go through the selection criteria or job description and tweak your resume and covering letter to specifically provide outcome based information relative to what is involved in the new role?

As I previously mentioned, it just takes time, and time that some people who are looking for work don’t think to use wisely. Your focus should be on quality, not quantity when applying for roles.

Now let’s get into the guts of it and look at what I have been going on about.

Say for example you are the owner of a busy timber retail business and your office is so busy that you need to hire another administration worker to assist in processing the invoices that come in. You place your advert in the hope of hiring someone that can handle a heavy workload without making errors.

Consider the two different statements below from two different applicants. Which one would you hire?

  1. “I have worked in a busy office processing invoices and answering phone calls from customers along with serving customers at the counter whilst providing high levels of customer service”; or
  2. “In my previous role as office manager at Jetson’s Courier Service one of my duties was to process all incoming invoices within a twenty four turnaround period from the time of receipting. The office averaged between 300 – 400 invoices per month and during the last six months of completing this task, the twenty four hour turnaround period was met on all occasions with a nil error rate in invoice processing.”

The difference is obvious; the second applicant quantifies their statement with specific information that clearly outlines their capabilities. The first applicant doesn’t do this.  It isn’t clear to the potential employer what a busy office means, in this instance.  Does this mean processing 35 invoices per month in a small family business?  The only question you want the person reading your resume to be asking is ‘When can you start?’ It should be clear, complete, concise and correct.

Yes, for certain, build a base resume with the kind of job you want in mind but the trick is to update/change it for every job you apply for. Before you think I don’t have the time to do that! I am not saying re-write your resume for every job you apply for, I am merely stating you have to review/tweak/adjust/update your resume for each application.

This means reading about and understanding the role you are applying for, looking for and adjusting the examples or role activities in your resume to suit the role you are applying for.

If the role you are applying for is an administration officer or clerk and specifically talks about the types of activities or tasks you will be required to complete, then make sure you refer to those tasks or requirements. That means if you have completed the same type of tasks in your previous roles make sure you state this clearly and back it up with some specific and measured information or outcomes like the ones mentioned in example (b) above.

Below are a few quick tips to follow.

Covering Letter
  • A short sharp snapshot of you and how you meet the requirements of the role;
  • Provide some specific statements or examples of how you meet those requirements (i.e. If it is a training role, state your relevant training qualification); and
  • It must be aesthetically pleasing and professional to the reader with no grammatical or formatting errors.
Resume
  • The information you provide about your previous roles includes detailed information/examples/outcomes, specific to the requirements outlined in the job description or key selection criteria, provided by the employer;
  • The list of qualifications in your resume is only relative to the industry/role you are applying for (i.e. For a construction job you don’t need to list all of your qualifications for flying small planes or scuba diving);
  • Your resume is not full of sweeping and generalised statements about your experience relative to the role you are applying for; and
  • Your resume stands out to the reader with its formatting/template/colour and is aligned with the type of industry you are looking to enter (i.e. Your resume set-out/colour/template would be significantly different when applying for a job at a party and entertainment company as opposed to a law firm)

The information in this article is not new, it is not a secret and it’s not something that I have just made up. Most people looking for a new job or changing jobs/careers don’t take the time to tailor their resume and covering letter.  I have no doubt that you would dress appropriately if given an interview, in order to create a good first impression, but in order to get that interview, you must first create the good impression.

Take it from someone who has tried, failed and tried again.  It works!

If finding the time to make the changes is a challenge or if you need a little further assistance in getting started on the right track, I may be able to assist.   For a strictly confidential, cost-effective review of your existing resume against a job or role description contact me at stuart@healthymindhealthyfuture.com.

Kind Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future

Guiding you through life’s challenges

HMHF keep your mind healthy 1 HMHF keep your mind healthy 4 HMHF keep your mind healthy 3 HMHF keep your mind healthy 2

Blend in with your favourite bean!

Blend in with your favourite bean!

So why is it important to master this art and what does it really mean? In this article I will share with you what it means and how it can help you get out of the house and back into society when dealing with a personal illness or injury.

In 2011 whilst coming to grips with the fact that I had a mental health condition (PTSD) I didn’t actually work for a period of ten months, this might sound like fun not working but I can assure you it was far from a fun time for myself, my family and our bank balance.

After an initial period of time staying locked away from the world in our house, I felt I needed to get out, not to do anything special, just to get out of the house. Enter problem No 1. How do you do this when you have lived in the same location for the last eighteen years and worked in front line, community facing occupations during that time?

Why was this a problem? Simply because I did not want to head to the local shopping plaza to have a coffee and bump into someone I knew every 50 metres and be asked ‘So what are you doing these days?’. What would I say when I had been out of work for six months and lost 10kg’s? That I had become a professional triathlete? That was never going to fly.

Enter my and your solution to problem No 1. Google and Junk Mail! Yes junk mail, you know the brochures and papers that are thrown on your lawn in the middle of the night, and are usually all wet and soggy when you pick them up, only to throw them straight in the rubbish bin.

Google – Simply google coffee shops then the name of your local suburb or area. This is where you can find those coffee shops you’ve never heard of or seen because they are tucked away in the not so public areas. These are the ones you are looking for.

Junk Mail – I found it quite useful to browse through the local and free suburban papers that got thrown on my lawn. Often this may be where your smaller out of the way businesses may advertise because the rates can be substantially cheaper than the mainstream larger papers or magazines.

Use these two methods and you will find, like I did, that you will be able to get out of your safe-house and have a coffee, read the paper or a book, or just sit and people watch. Either way it gets you out of the house and makes you feel like you are still part of society.

So why is getting out of your safe-house so important when you are going through one of life’s rough patches? From my personal experience I found that it made me simply feel like I was still doing something normal, something that everyday people do and still a part of society.

I was also able to do it without the pressure of bumping into someone I knew and having to have that awkward conversation about what I was up to or where I was working.

After a while I found that some of these hidden coffee haunts/gems began to know what coffee I drank and I just had to gesture at the barista that I was there and take a seat and my coffee would be delivered to me.

I had slowly created a new safe space where I was comfortable. I was just ‘flat white guy’, not ‘recently out of work due to mental illness guy.’ It was a simple but excellent tool in re-building my confidence in a social situation and becoming more comfortable in a public setting.

So stop and think next time before you throw that wet and soggy junk mail from your front lawn straight into the bin, am I throwing away my ticket out of the safe-house and back to a bit of normality?

If you would like to know more about this subject or share your story with me I would love to hear from you, drop me a line at stuart@healthymindhealthyfuture.com or a tweet at @HMHFuture.

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Strategies to improve your Mental Health 

HMHF keep your mind healthy 1 HMHF keep your mind healthy 4 HMHF keep your mind healthy 3 HMHF keep your mind healthy 2

Opportunities: Don’t wait, create!

Opportunities: Don’t wait, create!

Stepping outside your comfort zone; Having a red hot go; Trying something new; Finding your thing! Do any of these sound familiar? In this article I will explain to you how by doing exactly what I have just mentioned could help you unearth new opportunities you had never thought of.

The need

So what do you do when you need a website but don’t want to pay someone thousands to build it? You don’t know what you want it to look like and have no experience just to top it all off.  Easy… build one yourself!

I can almost hear you thinking to yourself but I have absolutely no idea how to build one or even where to start. This is the exact situation I found myself in a few months ago, no website, no spare money to pay for it to be built and absolutely positively zero knowledge on how to build one myself.

Fast forward a few months to the 23rd of February 2016 and www.healthymindhealthyfuture.com is a fully functional website. WOW what a difference a few months can make. Was it easy? No, well some parts were but most of it was quite challenging. Did it all go to plan? Absolutely not, many late nights were spent on different online chat systems getting technicians to fix my stuff ups. Was it worth it? Absolutely 100% it was!

Ok I have to admit I had some help, and I was lucky enough that I managed to get that help from four amazing Australian authors. My pre-reading as I like to call it were all books purchased from my local book store for under $120.00 Australian dollars.

Now don’t get me wrong I have a read a stack of books from authors from all over the world but on this occasion it was great to grab some books that were written by authors from my home country as it simply makes it easier to relate to and makes you feel more in touch with the author.

Pre-Reading = Increase in knowledge

UnProfessional by Jack Delosa provides an unconventional approach to today’s ever changing business environment. An approach that challenges traditional strategies, methods and beliefs but an approach that has given Jack Delosa and thousands of his followers outstanding results. A different and inspiring book.

How to Retire in 12 Months by Serena Star-Leonard shows you how to turn your passion into an online business and how to monetise your knowledge, skills and life experiences to allow you to live a fulfilling life. Serena’s book also provides great instructional information and motivation to keep you heading in the right direction.

Secrets of Online Entrepreneurs by Bernadette Schwerdt taps into the minds of some of Australia’s top entrepreneurs and disruptors like Matt Barrie of Freelancer, Darren Rowse of Pro Blogger and James Tucker of Anthill Online just to name a few. This along with Bernadette’s own extensive experience as a copywriter and presenter makes for amazing reading.

Web Marketing that Works by Adam Franklin & Toby Jenkins teaches you how to successfully earn attention online rather than buy it, beg for it or bug people for it. Touted as confessions from the marketing trenches this book is way more than that, it tells you what works on the web and then shows you how to do it yourself. Outstanding reading!

HMHF UnProfessional HMHF How to retire in two months HMHF Secret of online Entreprenuer  HMHF Web Marketing

Action Time

I then simply typed two of the most powerful words available to anyone and everyone who has access to the internet and Google, “How to” followed by “build a website” and off I went.

What followed was night after night of watching different tutorials on YouTube from all over the world, subscribing to e-mail newsletters from other websites and people who had walked the path I was currently on. Along with learning about things like wordpress, widgets, plugins and hex colour codes.

Result 

So what does all this mean? Well within two and half months I went from someone with absolutely zero knowledge, and I mean ZERO knowledge on how to build a website to someone who not only has built their own website, but who is now helping other people with the back-end processes of their websites. It also had a flow-on effect, as after finishing building my website I used the same principle to start a Twitter account called @HMHFuture and integrated that into my website.

It goes to show what you can achieve when you step outside of your comfort zone and open your mind to learning something that previously you thought was out of reach.

Learning new skills, gaining new knowledge, meeting new people and seeing situations from a different perspective are all methods of unearthing opportunities and creating your healthy future. #unearthingopportunties

HMHF keep your mind healthy 1 HMHF keep your mind healthy 4 HMHF keep your mind healthy 3 HMHF keep your mind healthy 2

What do potential employers look at? The answer may surprise you!

What do potential employers look at? The answer may surprise you!

Speaking from experience the answer may surprise you! With our ever increasing fascination and use of social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter to name a few, it seems that employers have jumped onto the bandwagon when looking for potential employees.

The difference is that employers are looking at your content and use of the many social media platforms for a completely different reason than you are. Let’s look at why and what they are looking for in a bit more detail below.

LinkedIn – Does your resume match what you have on your LinkedIn profile with respect to job roles, achievements, periods of employment and qualifications?

Facebook/Twitter/Instagram – What type of person are you? Does your ever so polite and professional covering letter and resume differ greatly from your activities on Facebook or the like? Would your activities in your private life, which, thanks to social media are now available for everyone to see, reflect badly on your potential employer’s business reputation?

HMHF do potential employers look at 2

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With the growth of live social media broadcasting, improved internet speeds and the availability and user friendly nature of smart devices, time poor customers and clients are increasingly dependent on the use of the internet to review and select their wants and needs. As such, decisions can be made on who to buy from and which service provider to use based on personal perception.

Perception of the reliability of a business, whether fair or not, can be disrupted or impeded by its employees and how they behave. Not only while in uniform or ‘on the clock’ but also on social media.

How? Simply by the weekend drunken activities being unwittingly posted on social media for all to see. Or the racial or aggressive rant typed as a reply to an online story or the filming of illegal activities, posted up on YouTube.

So when was the last time you typed your name into Google? What comes up? Go on give it a go; you might be unpleasantly surprised with the result.

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Does this mean we all have to be boring robots on social media? No not at all, it just means being aware of your ‘online footprint’ and behaving in a sensible way online. Whether you are currently employed or looking to change employer or even your entire career, you may just want to think about what you post on social media.

It’s a competitive world out there and you want to give yourself every chance of your reaching goals. Remember, the next person who reads your post or watches your video may just be a potential employer that you were hoping to impress. #changingcareers

HMHF keep your mind healthy 1 HMHF keep your mind healthy 4 HMHF keep your mind healthy 3 HMHF keep your mind healthy 2

5 Ways to keep your mind healthy

5 Ways to keep your mind healthy

1) Talk talk and more talk

From personal experience let me say this simple tip sounds a whole lot easier than it actually is. Talking to someone about your problems, issues or feelings can be one of the hardest things to do, but it can also be one of the most uplifting and stress releasing experiences you can have. The hardest step of course is the first one.

Before you think to yourself that I am referring to the clearly obvious and very beneficial channels for talking to people like psychologists, counsellors or support services please read on.

Whilst those avenues are extremely important and I certainly recommend them in this article I am specifically referring to talking to people like your friends, your family or your work colleagues if you have that relationship with them. For me the thought of opening up to those groups of people was far far scarier than talking to a medical professional. Why? Because I didn’t personally know the medical professionals I had to talk to and there was a fair chance that I was not likely to bump into them at the shopping centre on a Saturday morning.

So what was it like? Scary as hell at first, but actually amazing and it provided me with a huge sense of relief after I managed to finally blurt it out. I was shocked to hear that I was not alone with my struggles and fears and that some of the people who I feared the most in telling had gone through similar struggles and actually gave me practical advice that helped.

So if you are having some of the above mentioned struggles or issues don’t be afraid to talk to someone close to you about them, as you might be very pleasantly surprised by their response and ability to somewhat normalise your issues.

2) Focus on small milestones or achievements

Some of the best advice I ever received was to break your month, week or day down to smaller chunks and focus on simply achieving smaller milestones.

Milestones or achievements like getting to work on time, finishing a particular report, getting through a meeting or presentation, doing the grocery shopping or hanging out the washing. They certainly don’t all have to be glamorous and should be tailored to some of the smaller tasks you have to complete in everyday life.

Then take the time to stop and reflect at the end of the day, week or month and look at what tasks you have managed to successfully get through and finish. This simple method can be used as a building block to slowly add to your milestones or tasks and keep you in a positive mindset for achieving them.

HMHF Small Milestones

Image by Tyler Milligan

3) Relaxing your mind

It should be no surprise when I mention the words yoga or meditation!  These two activities have both been around for a long time and they can be extremely beneficial in helping you to relax, to learn the skill of training your mind to block out the chatter which will help you gain clarity and find your way in a world full of noise.

HMHF Yoga

Image by Julia Caesar

4) Intense ………I mean Intense exercise

Whilst a nice walk can be somewhat relaxing what I am talking about involves intense exercise like beach sprints, mountain biking, hills runs or high intensity interval training. Why? Because medical information has shown that doing intense physical exercise releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that actually improves your mood.

Why not add to it by doing your intense exercise somewhere scenic like a beach or bush trail while you listen to some pumping music. What can I suggest from my own personal experience? Well exactly that, intense running on the beach or interval training on footpaths or tracks near the beach whilst listening to some cranked up exercise music on an iPod.

Can I further suggest finishing off your intense exercise session by resting for about 30 minutes and simply watching the waves roll in or whatever relaxing view you have available? Follow this by finding that out-of-the-way coffee shop that allows you to peer out and watch the world going by whilst reading your favourite paper or motivational book.

HMHF Mountain biking

Image by William Hook

5) Getting the balance right

I am actually referring to the use of medication to assist with mental health issues. Certain medications work by balancing chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters that affect mood and emotions.

Are they for everyone? Possibly, possibly not and the final decision to take them is one that should be taken very seriously and made by yourself and the relevant medical specialist. I can offer a brief insight into my own past experience with medication and hopefully this may assist in answering some of those unresolved questions for you.

My initial thoughts around taking any form of medication was simply no way not me, I am not taking that stuff! Why? Because I thought I would be stuck taking it for the rest of my life. Along with the stigma attached to taking mental health medication and situations that might arise like, what happens when I have to fill out a form, any form and it asks ‘what medication are you taking and then why?’

In its rawest and most basic form, by taking medication I felt I was having to admit to myself and the world that I had a problem and one that I could no longer keep to myself. I thought that once word got out that people would think less of me or not want to associate with me.

What I can advise you is that Yes I have taken medication, did it go to plan? No not initially and the process involved trying a few different types and dosages until both the type and dosage of the particular medication was right. I can say for me it was worth it. The benefits definitely outweighed the very minimal side effects and my own personal paranoia associated with taking medication for a mental health issue gradually subsided.

I can almost hear you wanting to ask, so what type of side effects are we talking about here? Well for me it was things like them making me too sleepy, too hyped up, having a very dry mouth, getting the shakes and them simply just not doing anything. No second head, No turning into an animal after dark and no adverse reaction to alcohol or other medication.

Contrary to popular belief taking this type of medication does not miraculously make everything peachy and have you dancing around talking about rainbows and unicorns. It merely brings some degree of normality back into your life and allows you to do some of the normal activities and tasks whilst allowing you to also focus on other additional methods of treatment to assist you on your road to recovery.

So there you have it my take on 5 ways to keep your mind healthy! Not from a book but from my own personal experiences.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like any further information on what I have spoken about in this article, I would love to help out!

Regards

Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Strategies to improve your Mental Health

HMHF keep your mind healthy 1 HMHF keep your mind healthy 4 HMHF keep your mind healthy 3 HMHF keep your mind healthy 2

ABN
788 329 212 96
EMAIL
stuart@healthymindhealthyfuture.com