ABC Mental Health Ambassador Kumi Taguchi, host of the ABC TV program about faith, ethics and religion, Compass, was planning to be a concert violinist.
But after many years of hours of daily practice and a violin scholarship to university, she found that the world of journalism beckoned.
After a news journalism career overseas and on ABC News 24, last year Kumi took over the reins of Compass from the legendary long-time host, Geraldine Doogue.
October 10 is World Mental Health Day, a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy, and the cause is close to Kumi’s heart.
She says that honesty and openness are vital qualities to coping with mental health issues, because it’s too easy to put on a strong public face and then collapse when we get home.
“We tend to think of mental health challenges as the darkest of times—depression, anxiety and so on—but we can overlook the cumulative day-to-day impact of a stressful job and life on our mental health,” Kumi tells Warcry.
Kumi warns her younger colleagues about the danger of burnout and the importance of taking time out, eating good food and looking after themselves.
“Our job is about telling the stories of others and hitting deadlines—I encourage mental health days. After all, if a colleague had a sore throat and wasn’t feeling great, we would tell them to rest up. Sometimes our brains and emotions need a rest too,” Kumi reflects.
Kumi says she has noticed a change in recent years, with not just younger women reaching out to seek help, but many more young men starting to do it too, which she finds hugely encouraging.
Born in Melbourne to a Japanese father and an Australian mother but now based in Sydney, Kumi loves her role on Compass because of the space the program gives to exploring complex issues.
“Because Compass focuses on the big questions of life, delving into rich and raw stories, I always feel uplifted and inspired after interviewing those who give their time to be on our program. They might work in charity, animal welfare music, art or a church, and it’s a privilege to be able to spend time with people I would otherwise have never met, and to bring their stories to our audience,” she explains.
Away from the television limelight, Kumi practises what she preaches about the importance of mental health and self-care.
“Spending time with my husband and daughter, and our rabbit, is the most important thing. It’s really important for me to remind myself that my work is not who I am. I want to live the best possible life I can, in a way that suits me and my family.”