JUSTIN SMITH | Why we’ve started a national mental health program

By Justin Smith

There are many euphemisms for poor mental health. The black dog. The blues. And so on. But the one that’s always seemed the most apt to me is the “dark place”. It really says it. It conjures up feels of isolation, loss and loneliness.

When you’re in the middle of depression or anxiety, it’s like you’re feeling around in blackness, hoping to find a light switch or a window that will let in some sunlight.

When you can’t find a switch, you feel around for other things — like drugs and alcohol and anger — hoping the light will comeback on its own.

And often, people think the switch doesn’t exist at all, and their future will have no light or hope, so they takes their own lives.

For years, we wouldn’t talk about suicide. It was like a dirty family secret, or it was treated an accident or a disease. But staying quiet hasn’t work.

Last week, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt called the suicide rate a national tragedy. Thankfully, we’re more open to talk about it, but we still lose so many people, and it feels like we’re only just starting to grasp how big the problem is.

It’s why we created the Mindful program. We wanted to have a place to speak openly about mental health. And we wanted to cut through the crap so we could be honest about addiction, abuse, anxiety, depression, PTSD and everything that’s been keeping us in the dark places.

I co-host the program with a couple of incredible humans.

Jacqui Louder is a psychologist of immense experience. She specialises in many areas, including eating disorders and sport psychology, and she has one of the greatest laughs on Australian radio.

And Major Brendan Nottle has devoted his life to the service of other people. He’s been a strong voice for the homeless, and his optimistic personality is infectious and irresistible.

Last summer, we began the program in Melbourne only, now we go all across Australia. It’s finally a chance for the whole country to not only speak to each other, but to really listen.

We’re not going to pretend to always be the light switch, but we’re a hand in the dark while we look for it.

  • Anyone needing support can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Justin Smith is co-host of Mindful, proudly sponsored by Tobin Brothers

  • 2GB & 3AW: Sundays from 8pm
  • 4BC: Sundays from 7pm
  • 6PR: Sundays from 5pm