When I arrived at the Talk Out Loud (TOL) camp I was prepared to hear a vast range of personal stories and experiences. I would observe the activities and interactions of the group, and I had considered how I would engage with the participants of various ages, gender, ethnicity and social backgrounds. I quickly realised that being a fly on the wall wasn’t an option.
Mary Galouzis, Founder and CEO of TOL, handed me a green bandana and pointed me towards a group. Within 20 minutes of arriving at TOL, I was doing the Nutbush in a public food court of a major shopping centre with 15 other people, and the threshold of my own social perceptions was already being tested.
As soon as you meet Mary her ambition and energy to create positivity and happiness is overwhelming, but she also talks candidly about the pain she’s experienced to get to this point in her life. “Four days into being married, a policeman knocked on our door.” Mary recalls, “we were told to return home immediately (from the honeymoon) and we later received the news that my 16 year old brother had taken his own life.” We all react differently after a suicide. Common responses include deep periods of depression, long periods of grief and an empty feeling of loss as we look to find and create our ‘new normal’. Mary describes herself as always having had a natural resilience as part of her personality, and after her mourning eased she was determined to create something. She wanted to honour her brothers’ memory, but also to help anyone who finds themselves in a suicidal or emotionally unfamiliar place. As a result of this, TOL was born.
Stuart Steele with CEO and Founder of Talk Out Loud Australia, Mary Galouzis
The Aim of TOL is to start changing the thought processes of young people. “You start with adding elements of fun and connecting with one another on a social level”. Mary describes the fixed mindset she often encounters, where the expectation is:
“I’m going to have another bad day”
“I’m going to get picked on again”
“No one likes me and I’m weird”
Mary encourages self-growth and wants people to attend the camps created by the group to understand that there’s nothing wrong with you if you’re different; you’re unique and different perspectives should always be embraced. TOL brings young people with similar social settings together and they begin to bond.
The focus of this particular camp is ‘Youth Empowerment’, but it dawns on me very quickly that the group leaders, guardians and educators are also gaining a great deal from the experiences that are happening around them. “Kids can struggle to find ways to have fun on both a social and personal level”, Mary tells me. Through her 25 years of experience in Education, she has seen the challenges that occur daily for young adults. The strength of TOL is combining the social and personal aspects, while creating bonds with people they have not previously met. It goes against the grain of social media, which you could argue, is gradually making us lose the finer art of communication and personal interaction.
Part 2 of Stuie's coverage of Talk Out Loud will feature Wednesday 30 August, 2017 - see you then!
The next Talk Out Loud camp is scheduled for 12-14 January 2018 in Warradale. For more details contact or for phone enquiries call 0400 669 619.
If this story has raised any personal issues for you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 44, the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636.