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Breaking the Silence: Embracing Openness About Mental Health

This week, I received a phone call that shook me to my core: three men in a single Victorian rural community had taken their own lives on the same night. It's impossible not to be overwhelmed by shock and anguish upon hearing such news. How does one even begin to grasp the enormity of this tragedy and confront the unanswerable question: why?


Over the past decade, the number of suicides in our country has been steadily increasing, leaving us to ponder: why? Despite there being numerous organizations dedicated to mental health support and the encouragement for individuals to prioritize their well-being, the tragic trend persists. What are we missing? I may not hold qualifications as a psychologist or counselor, but what I do have is a willingness to engage with people. I've listened to countless stories, witnessed immense suffering, and experienced the profound shock that accompanies the loss of someone to suicide. It's often those we least expect who take their own life, and yet, when it happens, there's a deafening silence surrounding their death. Professionals advise against discussing it, perhaps out of fear that the suicide will spread like a contagion. But is this silence truly the solution? The evidence speaks volumes: the rate of suicide in Australia continues to climb.


I believe it's essential to talk openly about our dark thoughts. Silence shouldn't be our default response when it comes to discussing mental health challenges. Instead, we should encourage open dialogue, acknowledging the existence of these thoughts and understanding that they are a normal part of the human experience. Negative thoughts are natural and inevitable; they don't define us. It's okay to have moments of feeling low, but it's crucial not to let ourselves sink into a constant state of despair. Ultimately, the power to change lies within the individual experiencing these emotions.


The words "gratitude" and "resilience" have become ubiquitous in today's society, particularly within the mental health sphere. But what do they truly signify? When you encounter these terms, what do they evoke for you? One word that I believe warrants greater emphasis is "empathy."


Gratitude and resilience often revolve around inward reflection, focusing on how others impact us. For instance, gratitude involves acknowledging and appreciating something someone else has done for us or something we've received and are thankful for. Resilience, on the other hand, highlights our personal capacity to endure tough times and rebound from adversity. While both are undoubtedly positive traits that encourage us to cultivate inner strength and appreciation daily, it's also crucial to consider how we think about and empathize with others.


However, a word or sentiment that I find to be more significant than both of these is empathy. In our world, we often focus on how someone else's actions affect us, but it's equally vital to consider how our actions may impact others. We must cultivate greater compassion and thoughtfulness towards how we make others feel, rather than perpetuating the self-centered mindset that currently dominates society.


In writing "JUST A FARMER," my aim was to weave a narrative that evoked empathy in the audience. I wanted viewers to not only observe the journey of the family and community but to truly feel it. As a writer, actor, and filmmaker, my goal is to offer the audience an immersive experience—to leave the cinema transformed from who they were when they first arrived.


"JUST A FARMER" is a film that I hope will resonate uniquely with each viewer. My aspiration is for people to empathize with those who have experienced loss, to return home after watching the film and embrace their loved ones while saying 'I Love You.' I want them to reach out to a friend just to check in, to share a smile with a stranger passing by, or strike up a conversation with a fellow bus passenger. My hope is for individuals to view life as an opportunity, embracing every moment with openness and vitality. Life presents its challenges, but with a bit more empathy and genuine connection, perhaps we can make those challenges a little easier to bear.


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