Interview with Brad McEwan about mental illness the family on the lived experience podcast
Brad McEwan is an Australian television presenter and sports journalist. McEwan has previously been a sport presenter on the Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne editions of 10 News First and is best known for his hosting duties on Network Ten's Sports Tonight.
In 1994, Brad commenced a four-year period at Triple M in Melbourne where he worked in the newsroom as a sports reporter and presenter.
Brad McEwan Media is focused on providing workshops, presentations, mentoring and strategy that focus on workplace mental health and wellbeing.
Assist teams to manage change, diversity, and inclusion, leading thoughtfully, improving culture and mindfulness, and guiding discussion around mental health strategies.
Brad McEwan Media is about leading and working with kindness.
JOEL: How did you get your start in media?
BRAD: I was working in radio at AAA. And I took a year off with and lived overseas. I came back I was doing a bit of landscape gardening, and I bumped into a mate one day and he said, “What are you doing?”— He was working at channel 10. And he too said, “You want to come and do a few shifts with us?” And I said, “Yeah, no worries”. So, I started at Channel 10, and was here in nearly 20 years. It was great. The gentleman was a fantastic place to work.
What is your family and your experience with Mental Illness?
Our family went through a traumatic period where in the space of a couple of years we lost my brother and my father because of suicide.
So, my thoughts go out to anyone who's been in same similar circumstances. It really was horrible. It certainly changes who you are and changes your life forever.
But at the end of the day, you've got one choice—Well, I think you have one choice. And I know my sister and my mom, we all believe we had one choice, and that is to get on with life—because you must.
And the other thing is we get to help people now by talking about our story and what we went through and every time I talk about it, whether it's through Beyond Blue, or Satellite Foundation, to have that connection with someone who had a similar experience and to be there to support them, for them to know that you have an understanding of what they're going through that's just invaluable. So, it's great to be able to help.
What support did you seek in your younger days?
It wasn't something that you'd talk openly with your friends about. I probably didn't feel comfortable talking about mental health, back then, not that I was ever embarrassed or ashamed. It's just that these weren't conversations that you had with your teenage friends.
Of course, close friends and family knew what we were going through. And but again, we didn't have the resources back then, like we have now—I wish we did, but we didn't and that's why I'm passionate about, having mental health conversations, because they're so important.
Was mental health something that you openly spoke about?
I've always spoken openly about what would our family's experience with a mental illness and mental health issues because as I often say, I have nothing to hide, just a story to share. And when I say share, it goes back to another of mom's favorite quotes—which I've always credited Mom—"a problem shared is a problem halved”.
So, by being open about our experiences, it helps me, because I get to talk about it, and it just helps me have a better understanding of what happened.
But it also gives other people the confidence to open and talk and hopefully understand that mental health issues like physical health issues are just part of life, they are part of who we are. And there is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.
We all have our stuff and yet we spend so much of our lives pretending that we don't.
How you push on despite tragedy to achieve great success?
Well, I probably look at things differently. And I know that particular during this COVID year, we've spoken a lot about resilience and perspective. I felt that whatever life would throw at me post, what we experienced as a family nothing was ever as difficult as that.
And so, I always felt that whenever I would encounter challenges, difficulties that might come about either in my private or professional life, I would always go back and reference what we went through during that terrible few years and go—"I'm going to get through whatever I'm going through”.
But for me, it was also a reminder of life is short, life throws up, life is noise, fear. So, I'm going to go for it. I'm going to aim for the stars and see what happens. Because I firmly believe that it's our experiences that It's our battles, it's our fears that we then must embrace and turn them into a positive and use that as motivation to go and do what you want to do in life.
How did you deal your Anxiety and OCD as a news presenter?
I remember vividly there were times when I'd be rewriting intros sort of based on my numbers. And I had to rewrite it and then I write it and delete it, write it, delete it, and write it, delete it.
And this was just what was going on in my head. But I'd come up with like a timeout when the floor managers screaming right out “You got to get in the studio”.
I'd find myself going right out, “OCD, that's enough timeout, I've really got to get in there. We'll pick this up when I finished”. So, I was able to have a bit of fun with it by that stage.
How do you achieve cultural change when it comes to mental health awareness?
Well, for me two things stand out education, and conversation. I knew so much about my physical makeup, but I didn't understand so much about my emotional health and my mental health.
And yet, I remember vividly, year seven or eight, humanities teacher taught us for the first time about meditation. And I remember laying in the room—and maybe there was some music playing, and he'd be talking and whatever—and I'd be just imagining, with my breath, and all the bad stuff going out with every breath.
And whenever I remember laying there thinking, this might be the most peaceful feeling in the world. Fast forward several years, and year 12, I was really stressed, anxious, not coping. I went and saw a counselor.
She recommended to me relaxation, music. So, we grabbed the old cassette tape, and we put it in, and I lay down on the bed, and I think it was like, waves crashing.
What more do you think can help young people and families?
We need to have more people, experts, whose sole objective is addressing mental health. Within young people, it's about having an understanding.
For example, A family member a few years back, living in a rural area was struggling with their mental health. And they couldn’t get in to see a counselor, a psychologist, next available appointment was three months.
Teenagers, for example, and all the stuff that we've touched on earlier, they're going through, it can be tough. But when you're worried about a teenager's mental health, and you're living day to day, three months is a long, long time and is not good enough.
So, we need to throw more people more resources, take more money, but I think, first and foremost, it needs to be an awareness.
What prompted you to change your career to work in the mental health space?
I needed to change, and I was a bit tired and worn out. And I think maybe I could just feel it, even my mental health wasn't great.
So, I thought, “Well, hang on, I can't be telling everyone to look out for their own mental health. And I look after my mental health”.
And I listened to my gap all the time. And I just needed time out—and I had time out.
What was important to me, then, is not what is important to me now.
Covering primarily sport was unbelievable—It was so much fun. I enjoyed every minute of it.
But that's not what I want to do now. I've read a lot about this, when people change careers or they get to a point where they go, “Oh, hang on, you know, what can I really do now to make a difference”.
Doing the workshops around mental health, sharing our story, and whatever is something that I just love. I love being an ambassador for Beyond Blue and Satellite Foundation.
We had a workshop earlier in the year and at the end of it Rose and I had a chat on the phone, and I said to her “this is almost the best feeling I've ever had all year”.
Just because of the connection that we had with the kids and a conversation and sharing our stories and our laughter. One of the most powerful things that I have, when I talk to people around mental health and well-being, is its sense of humor—being able to laugh and smile.
Sabina Read—a well-known psychologist—wrote a piece, The Sydney Morning Herald last year and I think the headline was “finding the right counsel is a bit like dating” and I agree. It's not like, “oh, you're a psychologist, this is going to work”. It's got to be the right fit. It's going to be like Dave Campbell.
What are some common themes coming out your mental health corporate workshops?
A lot of people aren't fully across mental health and well-being and even just some of the signs and the symptoms, but people often ask, what to do?
How do we help someone if we are worried about them? or how do we have that conversation? And that can be difficult, can be really daunting. But as I often say to people to reach out and ask someone really is okay often or just checking in on them. It's an act of kindness, isn't it?
And regarding well-being, to celebrate it to psychologist and author Martin Seligman, he says that “the single the single most powerful act that we can do to improve somebody's well-being is an act of kindness”.
What are the company profits over mental health and culture?
We see this all the time particularly in workplaces—not every workplace—and I do believe that the culture is moving.
Those organizations that don't embrace a caring, nurturing culture are going to get left behind. Because business leaders, and CEOs and managers and whatever that thing, it's just all about money, and it's just all about profits.
You're in for a whole lot of pain there because it's all about people.
And the most people say our customers are the most important, but no, they're not.
What projects you're working on?
We're doing some—with the help of a mate—sort of deeper, I suppose. Work with different sort of corporate groups, which is a lot of fun. I still do the one-on-one webinar type of stuff around everything from mental health and well-being resilience and perspective, whatever that might be. I do do a presentation on the power of kindness.
What does Brad get up to in his free time?
Probably my favorite thing is cooking. I find cooking is a fantastic way to relax. Unless you're feeling a whole heap of people. Things are burning in the oven. But no, I love cooking. I love the creativity of cooking. I love listening to music. I love driving. We I love sitting on the chair, reading a book cuddling a cat muffin. We love traveling. Family, friends, coffee.
To hear Brad's episode click here