You may recognise Sam Webb as a contestant from Australian Survivor, but he’s also the co-founder of mental health charity Livin, which exists to wipe out the stigma of mental illness and raise awareness for suicide prevention. In International Men’s Health Week, he tells Jessica Morris why it’s important men know that “It ain’t weak to speak”.
Why did you form Livin and what do you do?
Casey Lyons and I co-founded Livin in September 2013 after we lost our good friend Dwayne Lally to mental illness. It was this experience that triggered me to make a change in my life. This was a battle I was very accustomed to myself, having fought mental illness for a long time. It was the stigma that kept Dwayne, me and many other people suffering in silence.
We want people to know that “It ain’t weak to speak” and encourage them to speak up when they are struggling. Mental illness is just like any other disease; however, there is immense stigma and very little conversation about it.
We travel around Australia and internationally to speak to schools and businesses in the hope that we can educate them about mental illness and show them the support systems available. Grassroot community events and working at the frontline is what Livin is all about.
We know that males account for 75% of all suicides in Australia. Why is this rate so high?
Personally, I don’t think there is a single reason to explain these statistics. However, I do feel that within society there is still the expectation for men to be tough, both mentally and physically. It’s likely many of them are afraid to speak up or seek help in fear of being seen as weak or judged. We want everyone to know that mental illness is not a weakness and not a choice.
What are the indicators that someone needs to reach out for support?
There is no single factor as everyone is different. Mental illness can be triggered from a myriad of psychological, social and biological factors. If someone is feeling especially low for no exact reason, and it is persistent, or they’re finding it difficult to cope, we encourage them to seek support from someone they trust, sooner than later. Proactive is better than reactive.
Your slogan is, “It ain’t weak to speak”. What is the best way for a man to ask for help if he is concerned about his health?
I suggest sitting down with a mate and letting them know you are struggling. If you find it too difficult, write them a letter or send a text. It is very difficult for someone who has never suffered from a mental illness to actually feel the pain, but if the receiver can listen with empathy and without judgment , that [is what] counts.
If you can, go to your GP and speak to them about the options and support available, as this can kick-start your treatment and recovery. Be patient, as it can take some time to find the right plan and people to help you get back on track.
If we are concerned about a mate, what’s the first thing we can do for them?
Talk to them, express your concerns and offer your support. Be honest and upfront. Don’t be afraid to ask the confrontational questions. Many people just need a listening ear. From here on, you should look into suggesting professional support or avenues they feel comfortable pursuing. Offer to attend the meetings with them or ask what will make them more comfortable. Options equal hope.
What are the recovery pathways for someone experiencing mental health issues?
Recovery from mental illness varies for each person. A professional doctor is the best person to consult for finding what works for you.
In Australia we have a mental health initiative that allows partial or full rebates through Medicare for psychologist appointments if people are referred by a GP, which is a great benefit.
Why are you passionate about your work?
We just want everyone to know that “It ain’t weak to speak”. If you or someone you know is struggling right now, please do not be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is strength. I can say this from living proof—if I had asked for help sooner, I would not have endured years of pain and confusion. Asking for help wasn’t easy, but when I did, my life changed for the better.
If you are struggling, please visit livin.org.au or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.