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‘Their story isn’t over yet’ How Talk Out Loud Australia is reshaping young lives (Part 2)

Part two of ‘Their story isn’t over yet’ How Talk Out Loud Australia is reshaping young lives, to read part one, click here.

Our Amazing Race

The challenge is set, the groups are ready, game on! The activities are simple but perfectly designed. Round one involves capturing pictures or videos in unusual places e.g. the Nutbush challenge mentioned earlier. Other challenges included forming an air rock band and putting on a show - bonus points are awarded if a member of the public chooses to join in (picture and video evidence required). Round two was a scavenger hunt and was quite challenging, it required some critical thinking and investigating. For example, having to find the cheapest item in Aldi, which was a plastic bag for 15c. Each challenge requires interaction with your team, using your environment, and collaborating with others to achieve a common goal. Despite the groups being in competition with each other, the relationship between them was still cooperative and strategic notes were shared when passing other groups during the race. Creativity is encouraged. One of challenges was to take a picture of your group (selfies disallowed) without the use of a mirror. While the easy option would be to find reflective glass, one member of our group found a security camera linked to a TV, which we all stood in front of and took the shot.

Meeting the leaders

I have great admiration for the diversity of the group leaders within the TOL team. Two of the leaders, Cassie and Kris, are former students of Mary’s, who approached them to help her develop the TOL camps and act as mentors to the young people involved. Kris by day is a rehabilitation counsellor and after a few minutes it becomes clear that he sees similarities in his professional life that echo with the current challenges with men’s health. “Men don’t tend to talk about their weaknesses” Kris tells me, “When they do, they are very unsure and passive about it, it’s hard to get them to understand they may need help for mental health.” Kris is a great male leader, he is a style of role model that isn’t custom to the stereotypes of a sporting hero. Kris brings intelligence, humour, respect and humbleness. Cassie had more energy than I had seen in a very long time. She’s very focused on the tasks at hand and her confidence is infectious. As the events of the weekend progress, her group gels together. Teamwork is a key focus and she makes them aware of their personal strengths and how to use them to build self-confidence. She tells me about how TOL has changed her life and although she has always been a confident person, the camps have helped her push the limits of her own comfort zone. I ask Cassie what keeps her coming back to lead groups each camp, she responds quickly, “You see the kids on the first day, scared, anxious, unsure. Then you see them leave and they are smiling, laughing, they are positive and they realise that life is worth living and they are not alone.”

Deep Speak

Deep speak was designed to create a safe space for the participants to share any stories of life, loss, love, grief, triumph and resilience. The atmosphere the TOL team created for the exercise was perfect. The group leaders set up small areas around the room with candles and glow sticks, and music plays softly in the background. They create a comfortable environment; the campers wear pyjamas, trackies, and ugg boots, and have their sleeping bags and pillows. Before the start of the exercise, a team leader Dylan, shares his experience of high school and how it shaped him into adulthood. This was the first time he had publicly told his story and it set the tone for the group discussions. Dylan’s story is a particularly powerful one. During his younger years he went to private school and like many, was faced with the solitude that comes with social isolation in a new environment during a particularly vulnerable time. During high school, he developed tendencies to bully other kids and as a result, he then wasn’t bullied by others. He gained the popularity of other students through fear. The pivotal point in Dylan’s life was the suicide of his cousin Jesse and he speaks of the night he came home and opened the door to his mother crying. Dylan’s life changed that night and it triggered a chain of events that brought him to be a group leader within the TOL team, and by all the conversations I had that weekend, a very highly respected one.

Participation in Deep Speak is voluntary however, this was a protected and trusted environment, emotions were encouraged and support was given by everyone in the group. It was an excellent setting for people to bond over issues that are close to them and created the freedom and relief for people to talk openly. Throughout the night our group leader Damien did a flawless job of moving the conversation along and giving opportunities to everyone to use their voice. This was more than a group therapy session because there was no sole issue, such as drugs or alcohol, that affected us all.

There was no structured order to who spoke next and there was no automated response to each individual’s story after they spoke. This was a beautifully raw conversation between young adults that flowed within the circle. Everyone brought an individual perspective to the group and the topics ranged from simple conversations about how to define beauty and remembering moments where you have achieved greatness, through to more challenging conversations regarding body image, suicide, sexuality, and raw honesty about feeling lost and disconnected socially.

By the end of Deep Speak, I was mentally exhausted, much more than I thought I would be. I’ve also taken away a great deal of respect for the people in my group and the others at the camp. I’m humbled by their stories and feel privileged to have been given a glimpse into their lives over the weekend.

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.


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