My Culture Keeps Me Alive & Well In My Battle With Mental Health

As I sit & ponder the 'what could have beens' in life I am so very thankful for every single knock, put down, set back, break up I've ever had - as silly as it sounds, even the day I had my suicide attempt - for they have all played part in exactly where I am today.

This coming week, I am very excited and extremely thankful to be heading across to New Zealand, to deliver a keynote address at the World Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conference and also the World Indigenous Suicide Prevention Youth Summit - both to be held simultaneously in Roturua, New Zealand.


It is approximately 4 years ago when I believed with all my being that I didn't deserve to be alive any longer - I was fighting an attack on my brain, called mental illness; Bi Polar Disorder & Severe Depression with at times Anxiety also.

I remember the day like it were yesterday, the most vivid flashbacks of the day I attempted to end my life.

It is hard to believe that 4 years on from what was the most difficult day & time in my life, has bought me to today, where I learn to live with & manage my mental illness and I am heading home on a plane to back to Wiradjuri country where I will pack my bags and firstly fly out to New Zealand to the Indigenous (First Nations People's) conference and then on to America for a month long speaking tour (#HopeHelpsHealTour) which includes stops in Washington DC, Nashville, New Orleans & Atlanta just to name a few.

In the days leading up to my suicide attempt, I was hoping so much that someone, anyone would understand and help me to find light - so I wouldn't be thinking and stepping into the dark places I were headed.

Now, today I am that beacon of light & hope for others in the same position. I get to travel Australia & throughout the world, interacting, educating & sharing my experience and helping others. Talking from a vivid lived experience of constant suicidal ideation, suicidal thoughts so deafening and real that they sound like voices talking to me - I get to tell people, 'they are going to be ok, it will pass' because I know from experience they do.

A huge part & I believe the most significant part in my recovery, has been the reconnection & reawakening in my self journey of my Aboriginal culture.

Connecting to culture has been the most significant benefit in my mental health journey

Connecting to culture has been the most significant benefit in my mental health journey

In New Zealand this week, part of my delivery will concentrate on the importance of how culture has helped in my recovery.

Part of my keynote I will launch a short clip showing the power of connection to culture through dance - a film I will showcase after the conference to the general public.

For 60,000 years our 1st Nations people did not battle with Mental Illness, Alcohol & Drug addictions. Our people respected, lived, loved, cared for each other & the land. In my reconnection I have found a comfort & clear head that allows my spirit to be free.

Like the boxing ring, dance & culture are the only things that enable my mind to be free

Like the boxing ring, dance & culture are the only things that enable my mind to be free

Through our song lines, dance, connection to self, ancestors, others, land, spirit and our ancient Lore I am in a much more settled and safe self.

I believe there is something in this for all of us, no matter race or religion.

I am so lucky I survived, I am so lucky I am still around - I have my second chance at life, helping people and spreading a message of hope and management of mental illness.

The past 15 years of professional sport have been fantastic but I truly believe the next 15 will be revealed as my purpose in life.