Don't Blake A Smile | Mental health
As the Editor in Chief of The Legal Forecast, I have the pleasure of working with some brilliant authors sharing their ideas and perception of how the legal industry will adapt in the future due to technology and innovation.
I noticed a Facebook page had recently shared the wonderful article by Eloise Dibden. As I reviewed the posts by "Don't Blake A Smile", I immediately felt the pain, loss and confusion in the writer. I reached out and spoke with Gemma Wilson, the creator of the page.
My motto is for everyone to 'live out loud' and Gemma is doing exactly that. She is sharing her pain and healing in honour of her brother to advocate for a better society - a society that genuinely discusses mental health.
I do not need to remind anyone of the staggering statistics of mental health concerns in the legal industry. I do want to remind you that you are never alone. I do want to remind you that you are so valued. I do want to remind you to "speak, even when your voice shakes".If this post causes you any discomfort, or if you would just like to speak to someone, please never hesitate to reach out to:
Queensland Law Society's LawCare;
Law Society of New South Wales' Wellbeing programs;
New South Wales Bar Association's BarCare;
Law Institute of Victoria's Wellbeing programs; or
Gemma's story is below and you will probably need some tissues. It is people like Gemma who remind us what true bravery looks like. It is people like Gemma whose stories will hopefully help others share theirs. It is people like Gemma who give me hope that our society will continue to embrace those who are open about their mental health. Gemma, keep fighting the good fight. I am with you.
Regards Michael Bidwell
Don't Blake A Smile
June 4th 2017,
The day my eldest brother Blake committed suicide.
Blake was my hero. I looked up to him so much! I remember thinking "If I can be more like Blake I'll be happy."He was a carefree tradie by day and an energetic, bubbly shop assistant by night. Blake had a smile that lit up any room and the ability to make anyone and everyone feel very special.
Those traits explain why there were over 400 broken hearts at his funeral and why so many generous people from our community donated over $22,000 to our family to pay for funeral expenses. Blake was known by everyone around town so I was inundated with messages about how "strong" and "well" I was doing since Blake took his own life. That was not the case. I was not doing well. On the inside I was crumbling.
I would wake up (that is if I had even slept at all) in the morning asking myself all the who’s, what’s, where’s, how’s and the whys which are by far the worst. Mentally I was not doing well. It was then that I realised I was doing the same thing as Blake... I was hiding my true emotions from everyone. I was smiling through the hole in my chest and the weight in my legs, which is why I created the Facebook page "Don't Blake A Smile."
I was so ignorant when it came to mental health and suicide before Blake. It was never taught to me in school and it certainly is not mentioned in general conversation in our society today. I had heard of suicide and depression but never in my wildest dreams thought that it would affect someone who I adored. I guess that is the issue, we do not talk about mental health and people suffer in silence.
With an abundance of ways to communicate with someone, it almost seems impossible that you cannot talk about the things that make you unhappy or tell someone that you are struggling. I cannot stand that there are people who wake up every day feeling the same way that Blake did and face the world with that painful smile. I was not going to hide my emotions and my opinions anymore because I know it can be so hard to function some days.
I know how hard it is to try to walk when it feels like your knees and ankles are cable tied together. I know the feeling of that large hole in your chest and golf ball in your throat making it almost unbearable to breathe. I was done with this public facade.
Mental health is not discriminatory and it certainly is not a one size fits all. Mental illness is not something you are necessarily born with and you certainly cannot see it but it does not mean it cannot creep up on you or that it isn't there.
By creating the "Don't Blake A Smile” page, I want people to realise that they are not alone and that there is help out there for everyone. I want people to be aware of what makes them unhappy or emotional and speak up, say no and feel good mentally. I want people to pay more attention to others and if you notice that someone is not happy, offer help or speak up on their behalf. It's true.. everyone is fighting their own battles but I read something a while back that always stuck with me, "If we replace the "I" in illness with "we" we get wellness.