A reflection from Mitch

Kat Pullen, Project Officer Stay ChatTY; James Rice, Project Officer Stay ChatTY; Julia Gandy, Project Officer Stay ChatTY; Mitch McPherson, Founder and Program Lead SPEAK UP! Stay ChatTY.

There have been many times over the past year when I have been asked to do something that I probably don’t do enough – to reflect and focus on the present, as opposed to furiously looking toward the future.

The truth is, stopping and looking back on the past 12 months makes me feel very emotional and in particular, proud. It has been another massive year for SPEAK UP! Stay ChatTY. Whilst there have been lots of highlights such as Stay ChatTY turning 5, receiving long term funding for our School’s Program and the launch of our very own self-funded Sports Program, easily the biggest highlight for me has been the growth of the Stay ChatTY Team.

The addition of Julia Gandy and Kat Pullen has seen our capacity to deliver our Government supported Schools Program grow. The Program, which is delivered state-wide, educates students, their parents and teachers, about mental health and how to access support and help.

The team also welcomed James Rice, who has joined to deliver the Stay ChatTY Sports Program in partnership with the Drug Foundation’s Good Sports Healthy Minds Program. The Program provides mental health literacy and smashes down barriers and misconceptions about mental health in sporting clubs across Tasmania.

Whilst I know it is my family’s own sad story that began this journey, it’s always been my aim to have other faces recognised and connected to the mission – I am glad that Stay ChatTY isn’t just ‘Mitch’ anymore. Our new team members along with Jane, Amanda and the support and guidance from Relationships Australia Tasmania (Ra Tas), reminds me that partnering and collaborating with like-minded people and organisations makes us stronger and excites me for the journey ahead.

The name SPEAK UP! Stay ChatTY for most, is a household name across Tasmania. We are incredibly active and have gathered a huge following on social media. We love showing off where we have been, the impact that we make and the people who support us. We also love that through this platform we can reach and educate people on how they can better their own mental health. I feel we are respected, understood and are a recognised movement in streets and towns across the state.

I do my best every day to remain professional, to keep a high standard, to support those who support us and to be there for those that need me. I’ll always work hard to continue this approach and I will continue to gather people and take them with me on this journey towards change.

However, whilst I do this I am always grateful to those at RA Tas who help pick me up, by just simply being there and reminding me to slow down and make sure I look after myself. Only people bereaved will know the exact pain suicide leaves, we know that the pain is like no other. It haunts you and creeps up on you when you least expect it.

During the recent Stay ChatTY Cup, held during the State Football League, I wandered down to see Mum who was in the stands, also watching the game.

I hugged her, sat beside her, and for the next 5 minutes sat proudly looking out across Blundstone Arena. All you could see were our Stay ChatTY shorts, printed on each player’s jumper as they ran around the ground.

After a while, I noticed Mum had gone quiet. Glancing over, I saw tears streaming down her face. The reality is, that whilst most sat there and saw a normal game of football, all my Mum could not see, was her son, Ty, out there playing with his friends.

The reality is, that whilst most sat there and saw a normal game of football, all my Mum could not see, was her son, Ty, out there playing with his friends.

I know her tears were a mixture of both sadness and pride, but for me it was a swift reminder that this ache we feel, will never ever leave us.

So yes – taking time to stop and reflect is important and it is in these moments that I am reminded as to why I started Stay ChatTY and feel immensely proud of how far we have come. However, you can’t blame me for occasionally glancing toward the future when we have so much to be excited about. I am confident that with our newly formed team and our continued partnership and support from RA Tas, that we will continue to educate Tasmanian’s on the importance of speaking up and staying chatty about mental health.