Let's talk about mental health

Mental health awareness week. A great opportunity to talk about mental health and keep the conversation going.
This is a perfect time where together, we can spark conversations within communities, friend groups or family. Perhaps even break some stigmas, and those who may not be directly affected, may gain a sense of empathy on what it is others around them are going through.

Mental health is something most, if not everyone will struggle with at some point in their life. Sure, some more than others, but that doesn’t mean any one individuals feelings are invalid. That is something I used constantly tell myself. “Get over it, someone has got it worse than you”. What a shit thing to tell yourself. Especially as an adolescent. Imagine if you said that to a friend or family member who was reaching out for help. You simply wouldn’t. So why tell that to yourself?

My name is Liam Keaney. You may have met me in the shop, chatted via email, or perhaps at one of our Clubroom events. What you probably don’t know about me, is that I struggle with my mental health and I am more than happy to admit that.

I would like to share with you a few things that have helped me over the years and also some tips for how to reach out.

1. You’re not going to be 100% all the time, so try not to act like you should be.

This is something I think a lot of people can relate to. If you’re feeling down, upset or unhappy, you may want to do whatever you can to get out of that state. Instead, tell yourself “It’s okay to feel like this” Vocalise it if you have to, just so you can hear yourself say it.

Welcome the feelings. Don’t try to avoid or brush over them. If you’re sad, you may want to cry, so why not let it out! Acknowledging how you’re feeling and welcoming those feelings help create an understanding between you and your brain so when these feelings arise, you know it to be okay and something that will pass.

2. Exercise

What a Cliché one right? Well it works. Although it is not an immediate fix nor is it a solution to end all mental health issues. It does however, make you feel good, releases dopamine and can also give yourself something to look forward to each day. Something you have control over, something that will feel rewarding.

For me it’s boxing and going for walks in nature. Boxing is high intensity, usually a full body workout and makes you bloody tired, but damn I feel good afterwards. A nice walk in nature on the other hand, works in other ways. You’re exercising without really thinking about it. Also just being able to take in the beauty of your surroundings can do wonders for the mind. Not to mention a good dose of Vitamin D from the sunshine.

3. Reach in.

Zane Munro from ForAllTheBrothers said this one. Don’t wait for someone to reach out, but instead you reach in. Now that can go either way. Confide in your mates or family when you need to open up or if you think they themselves may need help, ask them. Not just “I’m here if you need me” but instead “What’s going on? Tell me how you’re feeling.”

When I first opened up to my mates, I was humbled. I had been with this friend group for years. A bunch of tradies mostly and a couple in the army. Exchange the hammer for a pair of shears and the skill saw for a sewing machine, you have me. A fashion student with platinum dyed hair. It’s fair to say I copped some grief, but we all did and that was never an issue and was generally just friendly banter. However, opening up about feelings wasn’t really a thing and that worried me. What would they think of me? Would I just get given grief? Well I couldn’t have been more wrong and I can’t believe I ever doubted them for a second. As a consequence, it’s now discussions we can very much easily have and I have learnt more about my mates on a much deeper level. They have also made me feel supported in ways I hadn't experienced before. So I encourage you, confide in those close to you!

One important thing to remember however, as humans we can be very solution based beings. But don’t feel like you have to solve how someone is feeling when they are reaching out. Simply be there for them and make them feel heard.

4. Diet

Again somewhat of a cliché but it’s true. Your stomach is your 2nd brain and it’s where 95% of your serotonin in produced which has a big influence on mood.

Cutting down on processed foods (and caffeine) can have a huge impact on how you feel. Have you ever had a dose of Maccas which sounded like a great idea but then afterwards you just feel like crap? Or one too many coffees or energy drinks and you get jittery? There’s a reason!

Now, I’m not saying don’t ever indulge in a cheeky Big Mac combo or have a cup of coffee ever again, but in moderation. Food of all kinds is to be enjoyed and you can still have a healthy diet with treating yourself once in a while.

5. Therapy/Counselling

There is no shame in it. Sometimes we need a professional to help pinpoint certain things we can’t. Just like you would go to your local GP if you’re feeling unwell, or with an injury.

We still have a long way to go with mental health in New Zealand with the likes of funding etc as it’s not always cheap nor subsidised. If you are in the position where you are able to go private, do it. You may also want to do some research prior or even an initial consolation to ensure you are with the right person for you.

There are also a bunch of awesome FREE services thanks to donations and private funding. One of the most important and accessible is four numbers: 1737 free call and txt anytime. If you are in paid employment you may also be able to access free confidential counselling through your company’s Employee Assistance Program.

Be sure to check out the ForAllTheBrothers Instagram page which will be linked below also, as it is a great community for guys and they even host regular events which are absolutely epic.

6. Breathing

Controlling your breath isn’t as easy as it may seem, however being able to control your breath can ground you if you are at a heightened stage of emotion.
This can vary between individuals but one method that helps me is “box breathing”

Step 1: Breathe in, counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.
Step 2: Hold your breath for 4 seconds. (Try to avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds.)
Step 3: Slowly exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds.
Step 4: Hold for a further 4 seconds
Repeat this until you feel a sense of calm/clarity, it has helped me a lot!

I am in no way an expert, I am only speaking from experience and helpful things I have learnt over time. To this day, I still struggle with my mental health. But if it weren’t for reaching out for help all those years back, I wouldn’t be here today and for that, I am thankful. I hope that the reader may take something away from this and I would be more than happy to speak to anyone 1 on 1 if you would like to know more or would like to chat. I have put my direct email down below.

You are not alone.


Free Txt/Call - 1737

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