Guest Blogger: Tania Claxton – ‘Black Dog Ride’

March 24, 2016

I am constantly amazed by the people who are passionate and dedicated to saving lives. I am even more amazed when little reminders of Aidon are integrated and included in what other people do. Tania Claxton is an incredible woman who asked if she could include Aidons name on her jacket for the Black Dog Ride. What an honour. This is her recap of why this event was so important.

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“We rode on Sunday to give all our support to depression and suicide, the black dog ride promotes every year. I ride on behalf of a few of my lost friends in recent years. We can not predict when and where depression is about to take its toll, we can only make people aware of symptoms and support them to take the steps needed to become well. Awareness and communication is a great way to help those who suffer from depression and anxiety. Because depression is usually a silent killer of many of our family and friends. We say do not suffer alone there is help out there so for gods sake please reach out and get the help needed to get well. Because there is always people like us, your family, your friends or even others that will always lend you a hand and heart for you to heal. Please support the black dog ride and please send the message R U OK. Thinking of these friends of mine on every ride and everyday, Aidon Breen, Craig Cook and Tommy G. Alias Tommy Grigsby. Please get the help needed before it is too late” God bless – Tania Claxton

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I need to do something, how can I get involved?

March 14, 2016

I need to do something, how can I get involved?

When suicide touches our lives, in the months and years after, many of us have a burning desire to help others. We don’t want any other person to go through what we went through.

So how do we harness this new purpose and drive into making an impact and a difference? Everyone finds their own way, however for myself, in 2009 I created a Facebook page called The Aidon Project. The main purpose initially was to have a safe space for Aidons friends and my own family to go to and read about information related to suicide prevention and bereavement support.

Back in 2009 it was extremely hard to get your personal story and message across unless you were affiliated with a big organisation. I volunteered with numerous local and national organisations, doing everything I could to gain more knowledge and insight into the mental health and suicide prevention sectors.

People often ask what can they do to get involved and my message is still the same – find out what is already happening in your community and join up with them. Link up and network with other people. Volunteer for local organisations, attend community events or become apart of one of the numerous local support groups around the country.

There are some incredible resources available if you are just starting out and trying to find your way in the sector, one of these is the Communities Matter website, along with the Suicide Prevention Australia video on Community Action.

Every conversation you have makes a difference and the work you do helps save lives, it matters.

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What is means to belong.. 

March 12, 2016

What does it mean to belong? how do we ever know if we are where we are supposed to be? or around the people we are supposed to be?

We don’t ever know …and that is the hardest part of all.. a good friend once told me to let go of trying to plan for future and just see what happens, and in some respect I agree… we should belong in the moment a little more. Take stock of what we have, who we have, where we are, and be thankful for all the amazing things we have in our lives.

Some of us will be lucky enough to experience true belonging in our lives, that moment of clarity that hits us right when we least expect it and it will forever change the way in which we progress with our lives.

#NatCon16 was the most humbling and awe inspiring experience I have ever been involved in. I knew it would be amazing but I am now on the plane back to Perth and have a sense of sadness that I won’t be rolling with my new found #TeamRippleAus entourage tomorrow.

There is a very good chance I am extremely jet lagged, over tired and somewhat delusional after a 24 hour and still counting transit (please excuse any spelling & grammar errors) – but I am going home with a sense of pure direction, clarity and in some ways it transcended any experience I have had previously.

They say the people make the place and this is true. We were in Sin City, walking the streets and seeing the bright lights of Vegas but it was the crew who made it incredible. The #TeamRippleAus #NatCon16 contingent are the most diverse bunch of people but we are now a big family. We laughed, we planned, we play fought, we danced and most of all we infected everyone we met with our positivity and passion about utilizing the lived expertise. People who have experienced suicide loss or have survived an attempt speaking up and making people listen.

I expected to attend and come back with lists and lists of things we could do be doing better in Australia, however, guess what? The USA need us … the USA are not as far ahead as I had thought. The term ‘lived experience’ is still new to them and I can honestly say they were blown away by the Aussie entourage who spoke about their experiences so openly.

We were notorious (in a good way) by the end of the conference. People wanted to seek us out and find ways to get us back over to talk. It is still hard to comprehend that this is all happening. And it wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for two very special people; Kevin & Margaret Hines.

The main man Kevin Hines has had his journey so far with mental illness and working toward positive brain health documented extensively and he is no stranger to the lived experience movement. Kevin IS the lived experience movement over in the USA. What many people might not know is how much he cares for people. He goes above and beyond to help others in similar situations and will do whatever he can to assist them to better themselves and their causes. Kevin does not receive enough credit for the people he has helped in the sector, not in just saving actual lives, but assisting people and organizations better their messages and programs. The #TeamRippleAus crew would not exist if not for him and he deserves every bit of praise, he is now an honorary Aussie!

Now I have purposely left the awe inspiring Margaret Hines last. I was so excited to meet Margaret. I had heard so many amazing things about her and Kevin lit up whenever he spoke of her. Now this women is FIERCE. She is a go getter, a ball buster and is a ‘takes no shit’ kinda lady. I was blown away by her generosity, her kindness towards us all and the similarities we both share in our lives. I feel as though I have someone in my corner surrounded by all these boys. The women behind the men rarely get the kudos they so very much deserve. Marg is one of a kind and although Kevin is bloody fantastic at what he does, a lot of the credit has to go to this wonderful woman. Thank you Marg for being you.

So #NatCon16 is done. A week in Vegas has left me tired, sporting an additional 5kgs around my waist, a sinus infection (sort out your smoking in casinos Vegas, that crap isn’t cool) and most importantly HOPE. Hope that what we are doing is actually important and it is ground breaking, worldwide stuff!

Our entourage has also grown to include anyone who wants to be apart of the change. #TeamRippleAus is not just a group of Aussies anymore, it is a movement. It includes anyone and everyone who is wanting to join us for the ripples of change.

#TeamRippleAus and the lived experience movement is going global. People wanted to be around us and know how we talk about this stuff. We told them we just do it, because we have to and it saves lives. Australia, we are lucky, we have the support of some amazing organizations like Suicide Prevention Australia who are recognized worldwide for their work. We are now apart of that.

Aidon would be looking down going, “you got this Loz”. He is the one and only reason I do this. I would give it all back tomorrow if it meant he was here another moment to hug.

So where does all this lead? I really don’t know. In all honestly, I’m a little scared. I’m scared that this was so monumental and impactful that my life is going to dramatically shift (for the best). We are going to help people and save lives.

I knew our little Aussie group would all be great friends, what I didn’t realize was that we would all become family. A little dysfunctional, very crude and super loud, but filled with love kind of family. We belong together. Every single one of us.

Thank you #NatCon16 for having us. We will be seeing you next year in Seattle. Until then, I hope you find something that makes you stop and think, “I’m on the right path, I belong here” – because we all have a purpose, sometimes it just takes a little longer for us to find out what it is, but it’s there. We have to work hard every day to be better people, to help others and help ourselves. Our time will come and when it does, we have to take it with both hands and trust it will all work out. If we don’t, we will always look back at that moment and ask “what if”.

I’m going to miss you Vegas. I won’t miss the smell of cigarette smoke, but I will miss the Starbucks within walking distance to my hotel room. I will miss the endless refills of my Diet Coke, I will miss the 60+ unread Facebook messages every morning, I will miss the crude and highly inappropriate language and stories shared over breakfast, lunch and dinner, I’ll miss the banter from the group, I will miss the laughter, so much laughter, which leads me to what I will miss most… the team.

Each and every one of you are amazing. There are not enough words to describe my deep love for you all and for what you are doing in this world. I am not one to talk about feelings so openly (not a hugger haha) but after experiences like this one, one can’t help but reflect on how it may have changed them in some way. I’m going to try be a little more open, you all did that. You all inspire me to be a better person. I hope I do the same for you and if nothing else, I hope you got some bloody good organizing tips! you all need it! haha

Much love & respect to all

#TeamRippleAus

#TeamRippleAus / #HopeHelpsHeal / #LBLearn2Fly / #TheEnemyWithin / #3Words / #LIVIN / #GVBMindWarrior/ #SuicideTheRippleEffect

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Transparency … it’s important

March 1, 2016

Did you know that in Australia, the Australian Taxation Office receives at least 5 requests a day from people wanting to start their own charity? That is a lot of people out there wanting to make a difference and impact change in their communities, however there are also cases where our positive good will and trust in organisations can be questioned when they aren’t as transparent about what they are doing as we would have hoped.

When I created The Aidon Project in 2009, I always knew I never wanted to be a big charity. I had volunteered with numerous big organisations and the work they did was important, so why would I want to try and compete with that?

The mental health sector is going through a bit of a shift at the moment. For many many years we have had big organisations all vying for the same Government funding and competing for resources. Every year we all talk about collective impact and collaboration, and for the most part I think we genuinely believe it will happen, however until the fundamental structures of our work changes, the sector will remain the same.

Innovative ways of working together are key, which is why I have formally partnered with Suicide Prevention Australia, alongside two other individuals to become Ambassadors and charity partners.

So what does this mean? You’re thinking, “Umm she just said she was never going to be a charity ….”. And you are kind of right!

To become a charity / non-for-profit organisation, it requires a huge amount of resources and for many of us in the sector, becoming a big agency is not what we want. We would much rather work alongside already existing people and programs to leverage on what we are all doing collectively and now we have been given that chance.

Fast forward to 2016 and Suicide Prevention Australia are piloting a new initiative:

“New structure being trialled by Suicide Prevention Australia.

After years of seeing a growing number of charities being established, we saw the need to offer alternative structures for small organisations and individuals. Suicide Prevention Australia has a pilot Ambassador program starting this year, with the kind participation of three of our longstanding community supporters and suicide prevention advocates. We are grateful for their collaborative spirit in trialling this new approach to community driven suicide prevention.

Ben Higgs from the Rise Foundation, Joe Williams from the Enemy Within and Lived Experience Network advisor Lauren Breen will formally be joining SPA as Community Ambassadors this year. They will continue to operate in their own right, under their own brands, doing important work in their communities and chosen demographics. The key difference is that instead of them each registering their charity, they will be operating in partnership with Suicide Prevention Australia from an administrative perspective.

Donations and sponsorship received by them for their agreed suicide prevention activities will be received into an SPA managed fund, leaving them free to focus on the delivery of their respective programs. Suicide Prevention Australia will also work with them to ensure suicide prevention key messages and best practice are implemented within their programs and speaking engagements. Part of this will entail connecting them to appropriate training opportunities. We have also built regular reviews into the agreement so that all parties can give honest and timely feedback on the pilot as it progresses over the next 12 months.

Time will tell if this arrangement is the answer. But, if we are all working towards a shared goal of reducing suicides in this country, surely we must take the most efficient and effective route to doing so. Alternatives to starting up new charities must be sought. – Sue Murray, CEO SPA” 

Ben, Joe & I are extremely lucky to be included in the pilot program and hopefully it is the start of a new and innovative way of working in the sector. Watch out 2016, big things are happening.

You can read the whole article here 

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