Unspoken Conversations are the topics that are often swept under the carpet, whispered amongst the closest of friends and bitched about by many. I want to create awareness about difficult things that people face in life; grief, mental health, money, illnesses, family troubles, relationship difficulties and putting yourself first. I want to tell the truth about things that really matter.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Helping Our Community Become Mentally Fit; A Mental Wellbeing Program


I'm very proud to live in a society whose minds are being opened to the seriousness of mental health.

Once upon a time if you were suspected of suffering from a mental illness you were locked away in an institution, isolated from other people as if your disease was contagious.

beyondblue. Depression, Anxiety - logo
Now, thank goodness, times have changed and organisation's like Beyond Blue have opened up an arena for discussion and support for those who seek solace and clarification amongst the confusion of their thoughts and feelings.

With society becoming more aware of the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses, the focus amongst campaigns has now changed to preventative measures to try and keep people mentally fit.

So here I am today, proud to announce a very exciting project that I have been working on with a fantastic group of inspirational women called the Eyre Peninsula Mental Wellbeing Program which is our way of contributing to a mentally fit community.

What, who, why, when, how I hear you say?

Well with the increased knowledge about mental health, we wanted to create a community forum where people could feel confident to seek help, ask questions, receive clarification and understand what it means to be mentally fit.

We know that many people are left asking;

What does it mean to be mentally fit?

 How can I look after my mental wellbeing?

 How do I p
revent mental illness?

 What is depression and anxiety?

 Where can I go for help if I'm struggling with my mental health on the Eyre Peninsula?

And we also know that one way or another, we are all affected by mental illness....

So what we can do about this?


We can create a Mental Wellbeing Program.

This program has been created by local people for local people to help answer these questions and to empower the local community with the understanding and tools to help create a mentally fit Eyre Peninsula.

 Often when we think of mental health we instantly think about mental illness, but this program aims to flip mental health on it's head and to instead, look at ways that we can keep mentally fit to help both ourselves and others to prevent the onset of depression and anxiety.

The Eyre Peninsula Mental Wellbeing Program aims to create awareness about what it means to be mentally fit, why it's important and to provide practical ways of looking after our mental wellbeing.

The program will also highlight local services and resources that are available to people in the community to reach out to for support if they happen to find themselves or others struggling with mental illnesses and aims to give them the confidence to access these if need be.


Fortunately for our committee, we have had so much support from our local community, including very generous donations from our local Bendigo Banks. This money, as well as the money raised through raffles, auctions and a gala dinner, will fund qualified counsellors from West Coast Youth and Community Support, to be able to provide information sessions in 3 local communities; Cummins, Tumby Bay and Port Lincoln.

The program will kick off with community forums run in these 3 towns in late October (straight after our "Life's a Circus Gala Dinner") so that we can hear the voices of the local people to see what information they'd like to learn about through the program.

Information sessions will then follow in early 2015, in both schools and the wider community. These sessions will be free, and are a great way to empower the community with the knowledge, understanding and tools to look after one another.


There are so many reasons as to why I believe that a Mental Wellbeing Program will be beneficial for my local community. While we are so lucky in Australia to have a Government who provides community support and funding, often, through lack of resources, they can only fund services that cater towards helping people who are mentally unwell. We were therefore determined to provide a program that looks more at promotion, prevention and early intervention of mental health to maintain a community with a healthy mental well being.

Below is a list of 10 benefits and aims of the program;

1. To try and reduce the number of deaths related to depression (country men are most at risk of suicide according to statistics).

2. To encourage people to talk and think about mental health.

3. To motivate people to look after their mental wellbeing.

4. To highlight local services that are already doing a wonderful job in our communities but can often remain hidden unless you know where to look for help.

5. To provide basic counselling and strategies for people who are already suffering (there is a 10-11 week wait to see a psychologist on the Eyre Peninsula).

6. To bring a local community together towards a united goal; to keep mentally fit.

7. To create connections and networks for carers, sufferers and the general public with local services and each other.

8. To bring the services to the people (often many of the organisations involved in mental health awareness are NGO's or Government funded, who simply do not have the resources and money to be able to deliver extensive programs to country areas).

9. To help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health so that people in the community feel comfortable seeking help and speaking openly about how they feel.

10. To create a mentally fit and aware Eyre Peninsula.

I am so excited about this project and can see the real potential that it has to not only help save lives but also to improve the quality of life of people living on the Eyre Peninsula.

Watch this space and 'like' our facebook page for more information.

Have you ever been along to community forums for mental health?

Why do you think it's important that we speak about mental health more openly?

What do you think the benefits of a mental wellbeing program would do for your local community?

Look after yourselves and those around you,


Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Depression; Which Personalities are Most at Risk?


When we think of depression, often we think of being sad but how many times have you heard people saying "I can't believe they ended their life, they were always seemed so bright, bubbly and happy go lucky," without realising just how much a smile could hide?
This mask of perceived happiness is what makes depression a silent killer; often you can't tell that the person is suffering an internal battle because they appear to be happy - but as we learn throughout life - appearances can often be deceiving.
The recent death of Robin Williams; the comedic hero who graced our screens as many different characters who we fell in love with, is just an example of one such person, who, perhaps to us "outsiders" seemed to "have it all." His death by depression came as such a shock to society because we couldn't see his pain -we'd just grown to love him as the "funny guy" on tv.
The shock of his suicide got me thinking about what personalities are most at risk of ever suffering from these debilitating illnesses.
A recent conversation with a good friend  really hit home.
For those of you who don't know me, I'm a bright, bubbly, loud, life loving, go getter who loves to be challenged, never shuts up and would describe myself as a generally optimistic - glass half full type of girl.
So when I was diagnosed with depression, it shocked a lot of people - "but she's not sad - she's always so happy!"
When this particular friend asked her father, a qualified mental health nurse, "guess which one of my friends has recently been diagnosed with depression?" he instantly replied " Kirsty, " much to her bewilderment; she just couldn't believe that out of all of her friends, he'd chosen me, the one that she almost thought was least likely to ever suffer.
When she asked him why he thought this, he said that often it's the least likely people that we think, that usually have depression. It's the one's who do always seem happy, who are high achievers, perfectionists, full of energy, very active and social butterflies who can often secretly be battling their own demons and negative ruminations.
Yet when we think of depression we think of sadness - so why does it occur to some of the "happiest people" out there?
One memory from my illness would be trudging up to a computer lab after I'd just seen my psychologist. Unlike previous bouts of anxiety, my psychologist knew that something was different this time, and suspected that I was also suffering from depression.
I couldn't quite bring my head around the idea of admitting, or accepting that me, yes I, had been labelled with thisillness, so of course, being the nerdy perfectionist that I was, I needed to do my research.
So I logged into the computer and jumped on to the Beyond Blue website searching for answers - was what I feeling really depression?
I remember my eyes welling up with tears as I started reading the causes for depression, thinking me oh my, I was a train wreck waiting to happen.
As I worked my way down the list, I realised that I pretty much ticked every box in the "personailities at risk" descriptions;
"Personality – Some people may be more at risk of depression because of their personality, particularly if they have a tendency to worry a lot, have low self-esteem, are perfectionists, are sensitive to personal criticism, or are self-critical and negative" (http://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/depression/what-causes-depression)
What my bubbly personality hid was a girl inside who had little no faith in her own abilities. Before this point in my life, I had never really thought of myself as a perfectionist, but when I thought about it, I really was - it was 100% or nothing and I would spend so much energy and time making sure that everything was bang on, running to schedule, grammer free, structured, t's crossed and i's dotted, that I didn't realise that what I was seeking was "perfection" (what mind you, perfection is I'm not sure - but I thought I could find it!)

I would overthink every situation, worrying about whether I'd said the right thing, or made the right decision, and I would cringe at the thought of personal criticism because in my eyes it was just that, criticism and never constructive.

But these are the character traits that often, only those closest to us really see, and can be hidden quite easily through a confident front; I guess that's why a bubbly personality can be deceiving.

It made me realise that perhaps I had my perceptions about mental illness all wrong - perhaps it's the happy, confident, high flying, "seem to have it all together" people who we should be keeping a caring eye on.

Stress can play a huge role in our lives whether we like it or not, opening up the potential for unmanageable stress to trigger off chemical levels in our brain that are linked to mental illness. Everyone suffers different kinds of stress in life from financial to relationship stress, work related anxieties, and health issues - and one things for sure - mental illness does not discriminate.

So what I've learnt through my experience, and my research, is that anyone, at anytime can be at risk, and suffering myself has created an inbuilt radar that monitors not only my stress levels, but picks up on the vibes of those around me.

Often it is the least likely people whom we think - that are suffering.

My biggest advice for anyone out there is to take particular note to behavioural changes in the people in your life - if someone who is usually bright bubbly and outgoing stops answering your messages, declines invitiations to socialise, and just generally seems "off" then it's definitely worth asking them how they are going, and actually making the time to stick around and listen to what they have to say.

If on the other hand, someone who is usually an introvert starts going out and partying, dabbling in drugs, taking unnecessary risks and doesn't quite seem themself, then this can also be viewed as "someone at risk" of pain and suffering on the inside.

So which personalities are most at risk of suffering from a mental illness?

According to Beyond Blue, it's people just like me - the bright bubbly, life loving optimistic ones!

Maybe not the people who you think?!


Look after yourself and those around you,

Kirsty xxxx


Monday, 1 September 2014

Mental Health Awareness; We're Organising a Gala Dinner!

The amazing team of passionate people behind the Eyre Peninsula Mental Wellbeing Program. From back: group members Angela Cordon, Ashley Lawrie, Rotarians Mike Munro and Adrian Glover, Leonie Green, Jo Clark from West Coast Youth and Communty Support, Kirsty Traeger and Penny Will. Thanks to the Port Lincoln Times for this photo via http://www.portlincolntimes.com.au/story/2452735/flipping-mental-illness-on-its-head/?cs=1500
I have something really exciting to share with you!
As many of you would know from reading my blog, four years ago I suffered from generalized anxiety and severe depression. My experience created a passion inside of me to do everything in my power to talk honestly and openly about my illness to show people that depression and anxiety can happen to anyone, at anytime, and that it's okay to accept that we're not always coping, to try and prevent so many people from losing their lives to the illness.
My awareness campaign started right here, in this very forum; my blog.
I have never felt so alive and so fulfilled as what I do when I write, and I share my story.
It was after I had worked with ABC Open to share local sufferers stories during mental health week that I mentioned to Emma Pedler, a local radio host and legend, that my next big dream for mental health awareness was to create a gala dinner that was full of fun, colour and festivities to put mental health in the spotlight and to start the discussions on the importance of keeping mentally fit.
ABC Open
Emma, being the amazing person she is, gave me her list of contacts and support and sent me on my merry way with a smile on my dial believing that I really could make this dream a reality.
It just so happened that another local girl, Penny Will, had also contacted Angela Cordon, the local Country Health Mental Health Experts by Experience Officer, wanting to increase the promotion, prevention and early intervention of mental health at the same time that Rotary had elected a new president with a vision to put resources into local mental health awareness and bam; the recipe was starting to be written for the big shebang of a gala dinner.
The next big thing to decide was where was the money going to go that was raised at this fantastic event?
So over a cup of coffee we linked into West Coast Youth Services and the inspirational Jo Clark came on the scene. Jos team of counselors offer individualised support to kids, young adults and their families who are going through tricky times in their life. What blew me away is that they have a policy that they offer support to everyone who knocks on their door, even if it's providing comfort that there's help out there and pointing them in the right direction.
We discussed our vision with Jo to run a Mental Wellbeing Program in 3 local communities; Tumby Bay, Port Lincoln and Cummins, both in schools and the wider community, that would point people in the direction of the local services available to reach out to for support, what it means to be mentally fit, what signs to look out for in yourself and others for the early onset of depression and anxiety, how to help yourself and others, and just speaking openly about mental health so that people can open their minds and understanding to the seriousness of these issues.
We were determined to send out the message that looking after your mental wellbeing is something that we all need to take responsibility for – it affects everyone, but hopefully, with the tools, understanding and services at our disposal, we can help to save the lives of the people we love and care for while improving our own quality of life.
Fast forward 10 months, and add on two extra super supportive and active committee members (Ashley Lawrie the creative mastermind and finance guru and Leonie Green from CarersSA) and what we have created is a "Life's a Circus Gala dinner" that captures the seriousness of the illness in a lighthearted, fun filled night full of delicious food, comedic humor, dancing, auctioning and dressing up!
I'm so superly excited about the event. Tickets only went on sale just over a week ago and already they have almost all sold out! that's close to 250 people keen to come along and support our cause!
Bendigo Bank have also kindly jumped onboard to donate a very generous amount of money which means that a 3 week mental wellbeing program will run in Tumby Bay, Port Lincoln and Cummins, run by the qualified counselors at West Coast Youth Services.
The money that we raise from the raffle tickets and gala dinner will then go towards extending this program with even more information sessions, counseling and the ability to interconnect local services to deliver sessions so that we can create a mentally fit and aware community throughout Lower Eyre Peninsula.
I'm so incredibly grateful for the support and generosity of my local community to help me bring my vision to life.
Life really is a circus and if we can all learn how to keep mentally fit then we can help ourselves and others to juggle the expectations of life so that we can all live happily and healthily.
If you want to know more about this project, please like the "Eyre Peninsula Mental Wellbeing" page on Facebook.
Just remember that if you're passionate about something, then you can make anything happen.
Look after yourselves and those around you.
Kirsty xxx
Selling raffles tickets outside of my local bakery!