Mental Health: It’s Time We Faced The Truth

I want you to answer this really honestly – it doesn’t have to be out loud – just mumble it to yourself in your head if need be. How many people have you worked with in radio in your career that you secretly thought had some sort of mental health issue but never discussed it with them for fear of ( obviously) offending them or embarrassing them, making them mad – or um..firing you?! HA!

If you are anything like me it will be a lot. Quite a lot.

At every station I’ve ever had the honour to work at I would say a stack of my fellow radio peeps suffered somewhere on the “spectrum”  of anxiety , depression – definitely OCD & so on… and guess what?! THATS OK! ITS ALL GOOD!

THIS my friends is why I offered to write this piece because we need to KEEP the conversation going… we started it with some epic events & causes (October being Mental Health Awareness Month) & one I was so proud to be a part of was for SCA, which I co-hosted with the honest (& very open about his own battles with depression past & present) Jules Lund.

It was called Press Pause for Mental Health – a 3 hour national radio show aimed at starting some really decent & honest conversations with our youth who we KNOW are struggling.

Now before you say “yeah but they HAD to do that show…?”  yes – they/we did… but it didn’t have to be national & it didn’t have to have the passion & dedication that the team behind it put into it because we all wanted to get it right – we knew we were a part of something ground-breaking & exciting & NEEDED & the incredible response the show got shows that this is something as an INDUSTRY we need to do more of – we owe it to ourselves & we owe it to reflecting the REALITY of so many of our listeners around the country – MENTAL HEALTH AFFECTS us ALL – BIG TIME! Let’s stop being so damn scared of it & just talk about it!

The ABC also did a brilliant job with #MentalAs, a series of shows throughout October that really unpacked some serious stuff for mental health but delivered it in ways that were easy to digest & understand.

When I put a call out on social media that I was writing this piece & asked people to share their stories I was so touched – I have been inundated with so many brave – awesome – mental health warriors who reached out to me both openly & anonymously wanting to share their stories.

The more that they share, the more they are helping so many of us who struggle daily in silence & self-imposed shame to realise we are not alone & that there is nothing shameful or shitty in being who you are -your true self- the talented fabulous radio announcer who puts up a front on a daily basis & can make people laugh in a heartbeat, but  goes home & suffers shocking depression or panic attacks that no one knows about before they go on air.

The delightfully honest & talented writer/radio producer Krystal wrote in a very revealing article recently: “I remember having to act a lot of the time, maybe laugh at a joke, immerse myself in some team building as it was the right thing to do – just going through the motions. Don’t get me wrong there’s plenty I did enjoy, but all the experiences were somewhat dampened by the dread & misery pulsating through my body”, How many who go through that, would ever have the balls to WRITE that – Krystal you are my hero.

Many who contacted me said they too suffered “daily” but didn’t want me to share their names as they feared not being hired again or being “outed” for being depressed or being “mentally ill”, as if it would in some way taint how people thought of them, that they would be thought “less” of for just being who they really are… kind of sucks really and it’s hard to believe that this stigma is still throbbing so vibrantly & ironically in an industry where so many struggle for the reason that this game DRAWS so many with all sorts of mental health issues to it- the excitement – the adrenalin – the fame – it feeds so many of us – & why wouldn’t it & why is that something to be ashamed of? It’s what makes so many of the great who they are?

Sammy PowerThe amazing radio talent Sammy Power has been open about her own struggles with the “dark side of the creative genuis” and her own battles with depression and alcohol – she has been sober for over a year now – lost a ton of weight & is on fire & as fabulous and funny as ever. Nut the thing is the “STUFF” that made her do some crazy things off air in the past is ALSO what also makes her such huge talent! And that is so true of SO many radio people whether they wanna ADMIT or not.

The “personality” that makes GOLD radio is very hard to switch off after hours. I know myself I have long struggled with not being who I am On-air when I’m OFF air – cos – wow surprise surprise that’s WHO I AM!

What you hear is what you get – that whacky zany person that makes people laugh & snicker & feel “connected” with me  in their cars on the way to work EVERY DAY is whacky & zany 24/7. Because I live & work authentically – it’s who I am!

That NO filter – that rare ability to really SAY WHAT A LISTENER is thinking & not be scared of what everyone will think of you – that’s AWESOME & that ability to just be yourself & say what comes to mind often goes hand in hand with being a bit “special” & I KNOW, you KNOW what I’m talking about!

Especially if you are a Content Director that manages talent like that or if you are an announcer who acts that way – you RELATE right?

The manic monkey mind that finds humour in the mundane is what Content Directors go gaga for – its called “polishing turds” am I right?!

I’ve been a proud turd polisher from waaaaay back man!

Some announcers have really struggled publicly – Glenn Mitchell famously had a mental break down & had to take time off air – Chris Sewell an awesome young announcer from Dubbo was open & honest about his depression struggles & by doing so helped so many other young guys who are dreading telling anyone about their own inner demons they face in fear of losing their gigs….

Will Anderson has never hidden his battles with depression in his youth nor did the fabulously talented Richard Marsland – 2 legends of our industry.

Bachelor host & radio veteran Osher Ginsberg was very open when talking to Jules Lund & myself on air recently about his OCD & ADHD & depression – his honesty was refreshing & wonderful & raw & RARE! We need more like him to come out – Mia Freedman was the same – so open & happy to talk about it – & these 2 peeps are at the TOP of their game?!

Then there is Helen razor – Mel Grieg – Jess Eva -Craig Hamilton Chloe Jeffers who have all been open & honest about what they go thru – so brave & so awesome.

It seems the more famous you are, the easier it is to come out though because by a certain stage of your career no one would ever dare suggest you were not fit for your gig due to “mental health issues & that’s why it’s SO IMPORTANT for high profile people in our game to TALK ABOUT IT.

They then pave the way for others – newbies who need support & role models – HONEST role models, not people who pretend their lives are perfect on social media & all that crap ( because we know they are not).

It takes compassion & understanding from all sides to manage talent like that but boy the dividends can & HAS produced MAGIC radio over the years… Hands up if you are OCD?

Well that really comes in handy when being anal about how you edit your talk breaks – some announcers I know have panic attacks before they go to air – so ? who cares?

It’s not a big deal – we are all a little different & awesome in our own unique way & that’s what makes radio so damn FABULOUS?!?!

Being able to deal with your depression can give you a compassion & empathy that listeners crave – that feeling of belonging – it’s powerful stuff- it’s what humans want – to not feel alone. I will always SAY what I truly feel & never bullshit to my listeners because I know over the years from the hundreds of emails I have received that it’s that brutal (sometimes polarising yes) honesty, that may be perceived as “crazy” that connects with people & helps them feel less alone in the day to day grind that we call life. If I can make ONE person feel like I am holding their hand on the way to work to face another day then my job is done!

This is why I love what we do & I adore radio because it does allow you to be real & it’s an industry where we CAN speak about mental health & help others understand.

Follow Bianca’s Journey @anxietyfree on instagram for advice & support for mental health

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