Lessons from a child

Host: Kalyeeda Station
Written by Barbara Camp

I’m watching my twelve week old baby trying to lift himself up on his forearms.

It’s causing him a lot of effort and hard work. He can manage for a while but then his head gets too heavy and back down it goes to the floor. His little muscles are not strong enough to hold the weight for long. He does not yet know how to pull his elbows underneath to prop himself up.

It’s causing him a lot of frustration. He knows what he wants and he’s trying so hard, but it’s just too difficult and the longer he tries the more tired he is and the harder it gets. The grunts of effort are getting more fractious as he gets more desperate. I can see he’s getting too upset and doesn’t know how to cope any more so what do I do? I help him. Prop him up. Reassure him. Then when he’s ready he can try again because he’s not giving up – he’s just regrouping.

Even at 12 weeks old the biggest battles we will ever fight are with ourselves inside our own bodies and minds. Sometimes you need someone there to help you take a step back and reframe things because while you are fighting to control yourself you can forget you are also your own greatest asset. Sometimes you need someone – be it your Mummy or a stranger on the internet to remind you it’s okay not to be okay.

It’s okay to struggle and it’s okay to feel like you can’t get your head up off the floor but I can promise you that there is always someone who cares and someone who wants to help. There’s always someone who wants to empathise. All you need to do is be brave enough to ask for help. And usually all that requires is making a bit of a human connection.

Mental health, social media and our rural lifestyles have been very much on my mind this year. Moreso than ever I feel the three are very much intertwined.

Let me put on my nurse’s hat and give you a few quick facts about mental health. Three of the biggest risk factors for mental health problems are to be young, male and isolated. Guess what demographic makes up the majority of stock camps? If you want a few more stats I can also tell you I live in the Kimberley which has one of the highest suicide rates in the entire world and that one in four of us Australia-wide will suffer from a diagnosable and treatable mental illness every year.

I bet you didn’t know that and do you know why? Because we don’t talk about it nearly enough. Everyone gets the odd cold or breaks a bone on occasion. We all get sick – so why is it so hard to admit when our minds are not in peak condition?

And this brings me back to our isolated young male ringers out on the stock camp. They’re living and working in a culture where we applaud being tough and admire a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude. It’s not okay to show weakness – you carry on regardless or you’re soft. And now think about that young female ringer. Often she has all of that plus the added need to prove herself as one of the boys – she doesn’t need to be as good as them- she needs to be better. It’s a hell of a load to bear whatever. Especially when you’re bearing it alone, because heaven forbid you show weakness.

And here is where social media rears its ugly head. Nowadays at the end of a hard day’s work I will head to the social area and see everyone’s head down, eyes glued to their phones as they catch up with their Instagram feed. Else they are tagging a virtual stranger in a meme about cats. Or perhaps they are editing their selfies from the day and adding just the right filter so the shot looks awesome before posting it.

It’s not real. It’s just one of sixty nearly identical shots they took in order to get the perfect one image to portray to the world how awesome their life is. The photo of the smiling person on horseback doesn’t tell the story of how the boss reamed them half an hour ago for putting the wrong horses out in the paddock. No one’s life is #instaperfect but that’s all we see on our feeds.

And because we’re all now glued to our devices we are not chatting to the people around us. Our direct peers are unaware we are a little upset about something and there is no debriefing. We are too busy either painting our veneer of perfection or looking at someone else’s and comparing.

Now don’t get me wrong. Social media can be a force for good. Like any tool it can be used in many ways.

After the tragic death of Dolly Everitt her brilliantly savvy parents are using a major contributor to her plight as a way to connect and reach out to people. #doitfordolly has touched so many lives already and started conversations that span out of interetland and into everyday conversation.

Our very own Steph Coombes – blog editor has created a viral video reminding people that you are not alone. And here I am coming to you over the internet to ask you to take a moment to connect with people around you and embrace your own vulnerabilities rather sitting alone behind your device.

It’s been a month since I first jotted down this blog. My baby is sixteen weeks old now and there have been tears and giggles and triumphs and failures but my not-so-little baby has gotten stronger. It hasn’t been easy but he has nailed it.

So people of the bush especially and everyone in general, next time you feel like my little baby and that no matter how hard you struggle things are just getting harder don’t hide it away until it all becomes too much. Seek help. Reach out. Make a connection and let someone know you’re not feeling #instagreat. Chances are you’ll find out you’re not the only one feeling that way today. And do you know what? If you can hang on till tomorrow it’s a whole different day.

If you are experiencing depression or are suicidal, or know someone who is, help is available.

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
Lifeline: 13 11 14 www.lifeline.com.au
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636 www.beyondblue.org.au/
Mindspot: 1800 61 44 34 http://mindspot.org.au/
Men’s Shed: www.mensheds.org.au