18 September 2019, Kingston Town Hall, Melbourne, Australia
We live in a world that expects men to be tough to be strong, to be stoic, resilient but also unemotional. A world that judges, criticises, labels men who show vulnerability, sensitivity, insecurity and their emotions.
Being emotional as a man is often seen as weak or soft, that somehow you’re not a man, you’re not man enough and even good enough.
The male mantra harden up, suck it up, man up has been handed down from generation to generation, like it’s some sort of badge of honour, that teaches us from a very early age that to be a man, a real man, you need to be tough, you don’t cry, talk or show your emotions.
These messages are damaging and destructive and in my opinion are contributing to a growing number of males from young boys to older men across our great country who are in pain, hurting and are perhaps paralysed by the suffocating fear of being judged, seen as weak or losing respect.
Some of us choose to stay silent because of fear, fear of losing everything. Even if that means it’s at the expense of your own health and well-being.
It’s time to challenge the old way, a narrative that no longer serves us. It’s not about blame or shame, it’s about responsibility and opportunity.
To quote Danny “Manning up in the past was to suffer in silence, manning up now is to put your hand up.”
Fellas it’s okay to be in pain. It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to be sad. But it’s no longer okay to suffer in silence
If you don’t think this is important, that’s okay but I strongly disagree. It’s never been more important for our boys, the next generation of men, husbands, fathers, uncles, brothers, coaches, teachers, leaders and future role models.
To be allowed, encouraged and supported to be emotionally connected and expressive.
To be vulnerable, and to be empowered to cry without fear or judgement.
It’s time for a new narrative.
Like Danny, there was a time when I thought I was fixed, that I’d beaten my mental health conditions. I used to tell people that I was fixed. But this implies that I was broken and needed fixing. I’m not broken and I don’t need fixing.
I’m on a 26-year mental health journey that will continue for the rest of my life, and I’m comfortable with that. You see my health and well being is ultimately my responsibility. it’s up to me to stay healthy and well.
There is a reason why I no longer drink alcohol. There is a reason why I exercise. There is a reason why I prioritise sleep. There is a reason why I try to eat well. There is a reason why I see my GP regularly. There is a reason why I’m engaged and constantly talking to my support network.
When necessary, there is a reason why I take medication. Those reasons are all the same: because my mental health and wellbeing depends on it. If I don’t do the things I need to do every day then ultimately I will pay a price. My mental health suffers. And it’s simply not worth that.
It’s a daily responsibility and commitment to my ongoing mental health and well being.
So to anyone here today who has, or who is living with a mental health condition I want you to make a similar commitment, I want you to make a similar commitment to your mental health and well being. Please don’t compromise your mental health. Please put your wellbeing first, please eliminate the things that don’t help you, please start investing in things that are good for you and your mental health.
Please, please, please follow the advice of your GP and your clinicians, invest the time into your recovery and even when you think you’ve recovered, please keep investing, keep working. Keep learning new tools and strategies that will help your mental health.
Mental health conditions are insidious and invasive, and a life with mental health conditions can be difficult. Very challenging. Exhausting. And at times completely overwhelming.
But life can be great again.
You can get healthy again, happy again, and the colour can and does come back into your life. But it takes hard work, perseverance, and a lot of patience.
To anyone here today who has or is supporting a loved one living with a mental health condition, it can be a thankless task at times. Thank you for picking us up. Thank you for not losing hope. And thank you for keeping us connected.
Daniel Patrick Frawley, aka Spud was known and respected for the courage he displayed on a football field. But courage comes in many forms, and it was his courage to fight his own mental health conditions using those experiences to share his own journey, in the hope of removing stigma, and encouraging others going through similar experiences to ask for help, that I admired most.
Even in his darkest days in recent weeks, he was still championing his message. That no man should ever have to walk alone. That you don’t have to suffer in silence. And that you should ask for help.
That’s courage. That’s strength. That’s selflessness from the ultimate team man and team mate. .
Spud, you were a beautiful man who I cared about deeply.
You were a great mate who I unashamedly loved. You were and will always be a loyal, loving, supporting and encouraging friend who I will love forever.
I’ll miss our chats, our deep conversations, the practical jokes, your infectious laugh, your spirit and your passion.
I’m so proud of you, Spud. I’m proud of how hard you fought. I’m proud of how hard you worked to overcome these insidious conditions the first time around. And I’m incredibly proud of you for helping countless others.
We may have lost this battle, Spud, but my promise to you, Anita, and your three beautiful girls is we won’t lose the war.
There are two things that I will cherish most, Spud. The first was your love. Whether it was an emoji loveheart at the end of a text, or you saying ‘I love you Schwatter’ at the end of one of our many phone calls, and the second was your trust. You trusted me to listen. You trusted me to talk. You trusted me to ask for help. And you trusted me to allow me to offer my support.
Spud, what I’d give to have one more conversation, brother. I’d tell you like I always did. It’s okay mate. We’ve been here before. We’ll get through this together. And we’ll do it again. I believe in you brother. So let’s keep doing the work.
Until then my beautiful friend, you’re free to fly with the angels. I love you Spud.
Wayne Schwass is a former champion AFL footballer and a mental health advocate for PukaUp. For urgent assistance please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 (24 hour counselling, information and referrals) or the Beyond Blue Support Service 1300 22 4636.