After losing her friend Daniel to suicide, Rachel decided to honor his life by participating in One Foot Forward to help raise money and awareness for mental health.
I had been good friends with Daniel for around 20 years when he lost his battle with his mental health. After I lost him, I found myself in that really awkward place where I didn't know what to do. I felt so lost, and also personally having a diagnosis of anxiety and depression, it was a really challenging time.
When I found out about One Foot Forward, it gave me a way to keep honouring Daniel's life and also help other people who might be battling their own mental health issues. It gave me a way to focus all of that energy that I didn't know how to use, and it focused fit into something really positive and beautiful.
One thing I remember Daniel saying to me a long time ago was that he felt like if he wasn't here, he wouldn't be missed, and that is just not true; I miss him all the time. So being able to remember Daniel's life in this way is so important to me.
“I love finding new places to walk, sharing about Black Dog Institute, and seeing the donations come in. Even just hearing people’s positive words of encouragement keeps me motivated to continue.”
One Foot Forward is so much about the strength of the community and feeling support from everyone who’s participating and the fundraising team. I love just being a part of something that's really positive and feels like I am a part of making a change in the world.
“I also find a way to refocus and increase my own healthy habits and manage my own mental health. Fresh air, sunshine and exercise often make a big difference.”
Last year, on the Facebook One Foot Forward community, someone suggested that they were going to try and contact some MPs to see if they would be keen to donate, and I hadn't even thought about that. I contacted a couple, and I got a great response from two of my local MPs, and one MP had a similar experience to mine. This year, I've contacted all of our state's MPs, plus others, and it's been a really interesting experience! I've had a really good response and some support in the form of donations.
I've had responses indicating that there are some constraints about where they can donate, but they all wished me well, and it was good because we're still sharing about One Foot Forward and Black Dog Institute. The most unexpected and exciting one is that I have had an MP for Southeast Victoria ask if I can speak with them. So I'm going to be chatting to them online next week, and then they're keen to go for a walk with me as well.
Aside from participating in One Foot Forward, I have also been involved with research projects at Black Dog Institute, which has been great to be a part of. The first project was close to Daniel's passing, and it ended up being really relevant what I was experiencing at the time.
“I've found that it's really, really important to get good support. So I now work with my GP. When I'm having my challenging days, I try to remember that I need to focus on getting outside and going for a walk and just being in nature, even if that’s all I can manage.”
Sometimes I've had to say to myself, "I'll just try to walk for five minutes." And often, after I take those first steps, I tend to find myself feeling a bit more distracted from the mental chatter that we often get that's unhelpful, and I tend to walk more than I had promised myself. So it's just taking that first step and doing what you need to to help.
“Even if I'm having quite a challenging or difficult day, I know I've made that commitment to myself that I'm going to go out and try and do a walk.”
I just hope that I can show that there is help, even when our current traditional support might not always be available. There is light and help, and our heaviness and our darkness won't be there forever.
Through the Black Dog Institute and the One Foot Forward challenge, I learned to really value the large number of lives that we can impact fairly easily. Just realised that with $1,000 we can impact 1,268 people, and that's phenomenal. That’s tangible and essential help for those people who really need it, and I feel that if we can help even one person, let alone 1,000 people, then we've succeeded.