We try to support our local community as much as possible and one of the ways we do this is to donate our Mona Vale space to local suicide prevention charity ONE EIGHTY for their fortnightly OpenUp Sessions.
ONE EIGHTY's vision is for a future free of youth suicide & they're doing an incredible job in our community. Last week I caught up with Samantha Callender, the 24 year old COO of ONE EIGHTY ... and WOW!! I had been told that Samantha was impressive ... but I'd have to say, she's extremely articulate, insightful, passionate, mature beyond her years and boy does she have her head screwed on! I had to keep reminding myself that she's only 24!
BCW: WHAT IS ONE EIGHTY? WHAT DOES ONE EIGHTY DO IN OUR COMMUNITY?
SC: ONE EIGHTY is a Northern Beaches based charity and our main goal is to prevent youth suicide. It was founded in March 2017 in response to a number of youth suicides on the Northern Beaches and we now fund, develop and implement various mental health programs along the Beaches. ONE EIGHTY is not only a charity for young people, it is actually run entirely by young people (our entire Board of Directors is under 30 years old).
BCW: WHAT IS YOUR INVOLVEMENT WITH ONE EIGHTY AND WHY DID YOU JOIN THE TEAM?
SC: I joined ONE EIGHTY for personal reasons. Within my family and friend groups, I had been touched by the impact of poor mental health and I just wanted to do something to help. I'm now the Chairperson and COO, but when I came onboard in 2017, ONE EIGHTY was just a small organisation. In the last couple of years, it has really snowballed into something so much more important. Recently we got some heartwarming feedback from a lady who’s son has been coming to our OpenUp Sessions and she has seen a huge difference in him. We have also had numerous GPs and psychologists in the local area refer their patients to our programs. To me, that's not a bad outcome for a bunch of young people giving it a go. Maybe we’re a bit naïve, but with our advisory board to guide us, and our get up and go, I feel so proud of what we're doing.
BCW: ONE EIGHTY HAS INCREDIBLE COMMUNITY SUPPORT; WHY DO YOU THINK INDIVIDUALS AND BUSINESSES ALIKE HAVE GOTTEN BEHIND ONE EIGHTY?
SC: I think we all know someone who has been impacted by suicide, especially the tragic youth suicides on the Beaches. We've seen first hand how it reverberates throughout the entire community. I also think our local community can see how the funds we raise are being spent, be it through programs for themselves, their own kids or for their kids' friends.
BCW: MANY OF OUR MEMBERS HAVE CHILDREN IN PRIMARY & HIGH SCHOOL – WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE THEM TO SUPPORT THEIR CHILDREN INTO THEIR TEENS AND EARLY 20’S?
SC: Above all else, I would encourage all parents to have the difficult conversations with their kids. Contrary to what some people believe, there is no evidence that talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings will increase the chances of suicide. Be direct. Ask your kids if they are experiencing suicidal thoughts or engaging in suicidal activities.
I would also suggest attending a mental health first aid course - it's like a physical first aid course, but for mental health. It will give you a basic overview of what signs to look out for and will give you the skills and structure to have those difficult conversations with your kids. We currently run these courses for our facilitators and occasionally, we have a spare spot or two so we'll let people know via our social media. We also plan to run more courses in the future, but in the meantime have a look at 'Mental Health First Aid' or 'Lifeline Accidental Counsellor Training', they're both really valuable courses.
BCW: OF ALL THE AMAZING INITIATIVES ONE EIGHTY DOES, WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
SC: Our OpenUp program came from a need within the local community. Essentially, we created a safe space for young people to talk openly and honestly with their peers, under the guidance of trained mental health facilitators. OpenUp happened really naturally - we pulled a small group of young people together to discuss things they were worried about, they gave us feedback on how it was working and then we implemented the changes they suggested. It grew organically and is a much more refined model now, with groups meeting on weekly basis. (OpenUp runs at Beaches Coworking every second Monday for people under 30; and on the 1st and 3rd Monday of the month at Avalon SLSC for men over 30. OpenUp will recommence in Manly again soon too).
BCW: WHAT ARE SOME SIMPLE THINGS WE CAN ALL DO TO HELP MAINTAIN OUR MENTAL HEALTH?
Take the time to recharge. Make a conscious effort to take time away from your mobiles. Ideally, implement a daily meditation practice, even if it's just a few minutes.
Look after yourself - eat healthily, get enough sleep and exercise regularly.
Check in with your self talk. Ask yourself if you are being kind & helpful to yourself. Ask yourself if the negative self talk is really necessary. If it's not something you would say to a friend, don't say it to yourself either.
BCW: WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH?
SC: Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
BCW: ARE THERE ANY LOCAL BUSINESSES WHO’VE BEEN PARTICULARLY SUPPORTIVE TO ONE EIGHTY YOU’D LIKE TO SHOUT OUT?
Honestly there are so many local businesses and individuals whose support has been invaluable, but there are a few standouts:
The Boathouse Group has been so supportive from the very beginning. In January, they donated everything for our Gala Fundraising event, from the venue, to the staff to the food and decorations
Beach Without Sand was the first ever business to support us and continues to do so
Jamie Kwong and his team from Workshop Advertising Agency have spent months tirelessly working on our branding and our awareness campaigns
The Newport who has hosted various events
BCW: WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE FOR ONE EIGHTY?
SC: We've spent the last 6 months building a strong foundation. We now have our Board of Directors in place, along with our Business Advisory Group and we have consolidated all our policies and procedures too. So now it’s time to supercharge our OpenUp sessions and implement our school support and community support programs.
BCW: HOW CAN PEOPLE HELP ONE EIGHTY CONTINUE YOUR GREAT WORK IN OUR COMMUNITY?
SC: Apart from donating to our cause, we would love you to come along to our events, such as Art Therapy and OpenUP or join our Pub2Pub FunRun team. You can also hold a fundraiser, such as a BBQ, a bake sale or even a movie night.
ONE EIGHTY itself does not provide crisis intervention or counselling. However, there is a list of services that can provide help and information on their website. You can also contact your local doctor who can refer you to a mental health professional.
If you or someone you know know are in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services on 000.