A podcast sharing stories of lived experience with mental illness
Interview with Michael Donehue about his mental health journey and help others, must listen for all young men

October 02, 2022

Interview with Michael Donehue about his mental health journey and help others, must listen for all young men
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Michael Donehue is a mental health advocate, clothing brand owner, and the national services manager for ADES Australia, which specialises in delivering education programs Australia-wide.

Michael is also an accredited MHFA trainer who shares his story in detail about his mental health journey to help others, especially young men.

If you know anyone in your life who is struggling, this is a great listen or an episode you can forward to them.

Michaels Clothing Brand - https://journeyapparel.com.au/
ADES Australia - http://adesaustralia.com/

Michael Donehue is a mental health advocate, clothing brand owner, and the national services manager for ADES Australia, which specialises in delivering education programs Australia-wide.

Michael is also an accredited MHFA trainer who shares his story in detail about his mental health journey to help others, especially young men.

If you know anyone in your life who is struggling, this is a great listen or an episode you can forward to them.

Michaels Clothing Brand - https://journeyapparel.com.au/
ADES Australia - http://adesaustralia.com/

Michael reached out to share his story on the podcast, and you can as well via https://www.livedexperiencepodcast.com/contact/

If you could please leave a review online, it helps the show to be discovered! Connect with me via the below links 



Interview with Michael Donehue about his mental health journey 

Joel Kleber  00:00

Welcome to the lived experience podcast. I'm your host Joel Kleber. On today's episode, I've got an interview with Michael Donner who, who was a mental health advocate and a bunch of other things as well. But I don't want to wreck it for you to hear his stories. And we'll let him talk about himself without me saying it in the intro. But Michael took great step. And he basically messaged me for my call that I put on social media about sharing your story. And I've had actually a couple of people do that. And I do have them on all the time. So thanks to Michael for doing that. If you do want to share your story as well, make sure you contact me via the link in the show notes. And also check out the link in the show notes for various links to Michael's clothing brand. Some other things as well, which I'll let him talk about. Mark has a fantastic bloke. And it's great to hear about a story where you're at rock bottom or you're not, you know, you're not where you want to be in life. And you can change it around and actually do something really positive, which Michael does. And it's just fantastic to have him on the show today. So look forward to your feedback about it. And please make sure if you want to share your story on the lived experience, please contact me by the link in the show notes. Until next episode. Hope you have a great week. So Michael, thanks for joining me today on the lived experience. And first of all, thank you very much for reaching out to our system guests and you, you were kind enough to put yourself forward and know who you are. So I really do appreciate it. Now, Michael, before me doing an intro for you, we're sure you can introduce your story a lot better than what I can. So maybe you want to talk about what prompted you to come forward and share your story and tell


Michael Donehue  01:20

us a little bit? Sure. So first of all, thanks for having me on here. I saw it on LinkedIn, I thought you know, the more that people can speak about this kind of stuff, the better off it's going to be whether someone listening takes anything away from this. And I think the more more than we can talk about these topics, the better off we are going to be and the more stigma we can remove when it comes to mental health problems. But for me, I'm super passionate about this topic, because I have lived with a mental health problem in the past, you know, and I probably still live with it, I've just got better coping strategies to maintain positive mental health. But for me, you know, growing up in the country, small town called Bundela. In Northeast Victoria, I didn't really know where to turn to when I was going through, who to talk to and all those kinds of things. Even though I was really fortunate, I had an amazing network around me, you know, my parents are two of my best friends are my brother's my best friend. And I knew that I had amazing mates around me, but I still didn't really feel comfortable to actually open up and talk about that kind of stuff. And from the outside looking in, it probably looked like I had it all going on, you know, as a school captain in year 12, I was singing and playing drums in a band with my mates at school, I was one of the captains of the free team. So everyone thought I you know, got everything together. You know, he's smiling, he's happy. But they down from probably the age of 16, I realized that things probably weren't 100%. But like I said before, I didn't know who to turn to or where to go. And a sacrifice five years of my life, not knowing what I was living with. And wasn't until the age of 21 that actually had the courage to talk to my parents and a local GP, about what I've been experiencing and how I was feeling and all the thoughts that I had. And you know, from that moment, it was good to I guess get a diagnosis and work through some of those things I've been living with for so long and not knowing but I was put on medication, which, once again, being in a small town, I was a little bit nervous and apprehensive about being on medication because I didn't know what people would think of me or the judgment that I would get for taking pills for, you know, a mental health problem. But I knew that I wanted to do something like that, to try and level out what I was going through and how I was feeling. And for me, I started to chip away at things got back on top, but it was certain triggers that I look back on now that were probably the biggest impacts for my mental health problem. So my depression took a huge downward spiral when I lost my Iranian cousin in the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009. And if there's only one thing that people take away from this conversation is don't take those moments for granted with your loved ones. Because you never actually know when that last opportunity might be that you get to talk to them or see them face to face. And that led me to drinking five nights a week until three in the morning. And a lot of people didn't know that I was covering that up from a lot of people. But looking back at photos now it was probably very easy to tell that I wasn't leaving a very good lifestyle because I was around 130 kilos. And for me that those nights drinking eating poor foods wasn't really good for me mentally and physically. And it eventually led to me having severe suicidal thoughts on a daily basis. And you know, it almost led to me taking my life I had a tree lined up at 212 kilometers an hour, just because I've sick of the person that I was and what I was going through and what I was experiencing and the only thing that stopped me Going through that action was one of the breaks, you know, thank God they worked on the night. But also the thought of my family thought of my friends, the sporting teammates, a small community, if whether they knew me or not, it would impact them in some way. Because I might have known my parents or my brother, or whoever it might have been. And, you know, that took a lot of, I guess, working through after that, but it was the wake up call that I really needed, I cut out alcohol out of my diet, started eating healthier, joined up Weight Watchers with my mom, which was an experience and a half. But I put those steps in place, because I knew I really needed to do that. But the conversations and you know, the medication I was having was pretty much wiped out with the lifestyle I was leaving from drinking so much. But for me, you know, that Wake Up Call of almost going through that action was what I really needed and started going back to the GP. I saw, I saw a psychologist once or twice, which wasn't, wasn't really for me. And I'm not that's nothing against this health professionals. But once I actually started talking, you know, I realized that my parents and my mates around me, people that I could trust and felt comfortable with were the ones that really needed to, I needed to get me get me through those tough times. But like I said, healthier lifestyle. And, you know, working through certain things and finding better coping strategies, which I'm sure we'll talk about throughout this. You know, one of the things that I really needed to do and that's a brief snapshot of, you know, some of the things that have been through but like I said, I'm not 100% and I never will be but I've got better coping strategies in place, I've good food, good night's sleep, more water, exercising regularly, you know, all those things are the things I really need to do to keep myself in there in the green zone of the mental health continuum.


Joel Kleber  06:55

There's a lot to unpack there, Michael, and thanks for sharing that in your story when you say this stuff about the carver and what I just think Tyson fury, cuz I know Tyson fury came out and said his story was a similar thing. When he was driving, he had all those thoughts about that. And that sort of stopped them and put them aside. But you make some really good points, especially about the holistic nature of your your health and regards to the alcohol and the food and stuff. And I think, at the mental health awareness, now people think, Oh, you just call a hotline, or go to the GP and get a psychologist and get some drugs, and you'll be sorted. Whereas, as you said, the drinking in the food and I think the alcohol is a really big problem. You're from a country town as well, and a lot of drinking as well goes on. And if you've got those issues, and you're just drinking flat out on the weekend, binge drinking, whatever it can really exacerbate. And but it's really good that you had that foresight to go over those other things as well, in regards to your manor house, imagine I'll talk a bit more about those important factors in regards to your healthy lifestyle, or how you how you had that foresight to come about that. Yes.


Michael Donehue  07:49

The one thing that always sticks out to me is you know, Gus Worland always says mental fitness, which is so true, you know, if you, if you go to the gym, to get bigger biceps, or whatever it might be, it's not like you're just gonna go to the gym once and you're gonna have massive biceps, like it's something that we've got to continuously work on. And I've, I've come to realize that since I started opening up and sharing certain things that it's an ongoing thing. And I can still find now that if I miss a day at the gym, because I'm traveling for work, or, you know, if I eat a burger for dinner, because I can't be bothered cooking, it actually impacts me. And I'm sure it's probably the same for everyone. But because I guess I've been in a position where I've got to realize like, I've got to work out what things actually work for me. I notice a massive difference when I'm not doing those things. But I think for me, the one thing that I've I've really realized is you know, I haven't had any like a drop of alcohol for almost three years. It's coming up three years now, after I stopped drinking the first time to lose a little bit of weight and get back on top of everything. Now there's a few times that go to weddings, we have a mate's birthday that I have a few drinks and sometimes if I'd been off it for three months, I probably made up for lost time in the one night when I hadn't hadn't had a drink but I realized that it was a trigger for me and I thought you know if if I can eliminate that, why would I try and put myself in a position where I feel really anxious the next morning or I feel really hung over or see myself as that really overweight person again, I thought what do that but you know, for me, I think sleep is probably the most important thing. If you can have a good sleep routine you know, we're meant to have eight hours a night but I'm sure we we don't all get that but if we have our own sleep routine and we can stick to that as as good as possible. It's going to make us make better decisions that next day so get a good night's sleep you know the next day you know for me is exercise and you know good foods. You know if I can take those three things in check. I know I'm going to stay as close to 100% as possible but like I said before, you know I can feel those things slip backwards a little bit if I if I'm not you know really look going after those three key things.


Joel Kleber  10:03

And you said before as well, psychologists wasn't for you, so major and elaborate on wide


Michael Donehue  10:07

opening. For me, I just didn't find the right person, you know, I didn't find the person I connected with the most. And, you know, one thing that I always say in like the Mental Health First Aid training that I do, and you know, well being presentations and stuff like that is, if you have a bad experience with a doctor, we have a bad experience with a psychologists or psychiatrists, you know, there's another 1000 out there. But I guess around the time when I didn't have that connection, I think the thing for me was, I'd realized that I needed that help, and I needed to talk more about what I was going through. And I started talking more to the people around me, like my parents, my brother and my best mates. And for me, that really helped with I guess the other three things I've just mentioned. But also, looking after my I guess, medication and taking that regularly, those things were really helpful for me. And, you know, that's nothing against the psychologists that I saw. But if I ever need medication, again, if I feel like I need to see a health professional, I would be 100% open to actually go and having a chat to them.


Joel Kleber  11:14

I think it's a good point, because psychologists are for everyone. And as you said, you need to be if you're not connected, the first one a lot of people just rubbish it and go, that didn't work for me no rubbish, and they won't go back again. And you know, it's on them to really sort themselves out. But I think that's great that you sort of said that it wasn't for you, but you use those other. There's other people around you who you thought you just need to talk to. And that sort of helps you. And I think


Michael Donehue  11:37

that also kind of almost buys into the stigma, too. You know, if I've had a bad experience, go hang out, Joel, don't worry about seeing a psychologist. So they're terrible waste of time, waste of space, that kind of almost leaves that other person that might think that they've got something going on now, or who do I turn to that? If they're if they're their health professional, it's meant to help me out or support me, you know, who do I go to? So if it doesn't work for somebody else, like I think that key message for me is, you know, it wasn't for me, but everyone's different. Every psychologists or every health professional is different, like, just go out and try and find that one that is right for you.


Joel Kleber  12:14

Yeah, that's a great point. And I think that's important point to keep trying if you don't get the right person on the first goes to keep trying if that's what you need. But what about alcohol, because what touchback, and as I think alcohol in regards to mental health and mental wellness is something that's not it's spoken about a little bit, but it's not spoken about, probably more than enough. And obviously, being in Australia, drinking is a big, big thing for our culture. And there'd be a lot of blokes and girls who would have depression or something like that. But that'd be flat out, binge drinking on the weekend, whether it be get over life, like a trauma or something, you know, drugs and alcohol and stuff, let's imagine talk from your experience in regards to alcohol and drugs and how you see that. tying together.


Michael Donehue  12:52

The hardest part is I guess it ties back into for me personally to the stigma side of things. Because, you know, if, especially for you, and if we're growing up in a small town, you know, we don't want people to know what we're going through. Or if we're involved with a sporting club, we don't want to be the one that's kind of the outsider, because we're not drinking or trying to fit in with everybody else. But the thing that I've seen, you know, you've worked with so many different people, or you talk to different people about my own experiences and stuff like that. For me, I was doing it to just escape what I was going through, because I didn't feel comfortable to share what I was feeling or what I was experiencing with my emotions, thoughts and behaviors and that kind of thing. And I just thought that it was easier to drink to one escape, but also fit in with everybody around me. And I eventually realized that looking back, I guess, internally, you know, it was always a people pleaser. So if people said, Oh, you want to go out and have a massive night tonight, you know, I'd say yes straightaway, because I didn't want to let them down. But also, I kind of didn't want to be not invited the next time. But I can I see certain things I work with over 260 universities and colleges across Australia, New Zealand with my full time work. And you kind of see a lot of the time, it's the first year students they want to fit in or, you know, it's the second or third year students are stressed or anxious because they've got an exam or an assignment coming up that they've got to get done. And they're drinking to try and escape that feeling that they that they're going through. And I think once I've realized that I'm here to pretty much please myself, as selfish as that sounds without trying to be selfish. You've got to make sure that you're doing everything that's right for you. And if you realize that alcohol or drugs or whatever it might be, that you're doing isn't actually having a positive effect on your life. Why are we doing that to try and please others and I also realized that there's no shame and actually talking about what I was going through and once I actually started opening up and sharing how I was feeling, I realized that I probably didn't need alcohol Whole as much and I started to cut that back and look after myself in those ways I was talking about before. But the thing that the one thing that frustrates me, I think the most without alcohol culture in Australia is if you go to someone's house for a barbecue or a AFL Grand Final on this weekend, it's, you know, we always ask the question of why aren't you drinking? But how often do we hear someone say, Oh, why are you drinking? You know, it never happens that way. So I think if there's more people that aren't drinking as much or not drinking at all, now, we can try and change that culture and I guess remove the stigma. So people that are living with mental health problems, but also people that choose not to drink as well.


Joel Kleber  15:45

I love that point. And I think for Australians, as as you said, we're going to specific for you, but a lot of people will have that truck trauma or that PTSD as well. And I just have to have that coping mechanism, which is the grog and they go to that relieves the pain for a bit. And then the next day, as you said, they feel you know, anxious, or they feel depressed even more. And then, you know, unfortunately, certain things may happen, but I was gonna say, in regards to your role, generally talking about your role and what you're doing now.


Michael Donehue  16:12

For me, I started in the role on the national Services Manager with a company called alcohol and drug education specialists and started in the role probably six and a half years ago. And I'm pretty fortunate to be in this role. It's, you know, a lot of things these days, it's who you know, with, with a lot of stuff, and I knew my boss from my hometown, and he came to me and said, Do you want to work with me, I can only guarantee you one month of work, but let's do it as a bit of a trial, let's see what can come out of it. You know, that six and a half years later, but for me, I'm lucky, I get to travel around Australia and New Zealand, when, you know, it's obviously been a little bit different than last couple of years. But before COVID, I was doing around 120 flights a year, educating different groups of people. And for me, you know, it's it's more that prevention space of educating people around alcohol and drugs. And I always go in, the first message I always share is, I'm not here to tell you what to do. But I'm here to give you as much information so you can make an educated decision. So you know, we look at alcohol in Australia, like we're just talking about, but we've got some of the harshest drink driving penalties in the world. Yet, we're not educated until someone's been caught drunk driving, which, you know, makes no sense to me. So can we go into a school or a sports club or a university, where there's young people involved, and we say, did you know this is how long it takes for alcohol to be removed from your system, and there's nothing you can actually do for it. And you look at some of the faces as they go, where I've probably been drink driving my time, but I didn't know this information. So we want to try and just educate people as much as we possibly can, you know, talk about some of the ingredients that are used in illicit drugs. So it's actually having an impact on people. And not really a scare tactic. But you can see people's minds ticking over and their face going like, where like, I didn't realize that glass was used as an ecstasy, pill, you know, stuff like that, and just get some really thinking along those lines of, you know, maybe I won't try that. Or maybe, like, I didn't know the cost of this drug. So maybe I'll steer clear of it. Because I didn't know that this is how many people can get addicted to it. So the more education we can get out there, around alcohol and drugs, but then also, looking at the mental health and wellbeing space, you know, it's pretty much that holistic approach that alcohol and drugs fit under mental health or mental health fit under alcohol and drugs. So if we can look at those spaces, and come in as a non judgmental approach, but educating as many people as possible, that's how we can try and educate the communities that they are either living in or you know, with their family and friends outside of where we do those presentations.


Joel Kleber  18:56

Awesome. And you're so Mental Health First Aid Australia instructor, so we're gonna talk about that what actually is involved? I think, I think the good thing with mental health fair, South Australia is that people are starting to recognize it as a brand more now. And I think there's a lot more people doing the course and then doing the instruction course, which is five days or something like that. So we're going to talk about that role itself and what it actually does,


Michael Donehue  19:17

that's probably one of the most rewarding roles that I've done. You know, I did my training in 2020 20. Yeah, at the end of 2020, I would just kind of come out of one of the lock downs when we had about probably 20 lock downs, but just came out of that did my obstructive training, and then got into it in 2021. And it's an amazing training and so many people don't realize it's been around for almost 22 years. And the thing I always say when we talk about lived experience in the training, you know, I always put my hand up and share that I've been through depression and if I knew that this training was around sooner if my family and my friends knew about it, we might have been educated, a little bit better and some of the decisions I would have made would have been better. But it's one of those those courses that I always say that it's not really revolutionary because you know, we know some of the things that we might be able to look out for. But it can really help the skills that we've already got, and maybe tweak a few things of how we can go about asking those conversations, what signs can we look out for? What environment can we have that conversation in, just to make sure that one we are noticing those things, and we can try and do everything to prevent maybe getting to a mental health crisis. But we're not there to diagnose we're not there to treat, which is the most important message around that, what we want to do is notice those signs and link them into a health professional as soon as we possibly can, that we know that, you know, one in five people in any one year will have a diagnosable mental health problem that one in two people won't actually get professional help. So it's a really big number. Now, whether that be the stigma attached, or you know, the fear of judgment, or you know, ashamed or feeling guilty of what they're going through. Or if it's just a wait time, you and I can probably relate to this with smaller communities in Iowa, unfortunately, I had a really good experience with health professionals in my small town, but I've done presentations over the last year and a half, and I hear of people that have to wait six months to see a health professional. So you know, for me as a Mental Health First Aider, I can stand up there and say, we have to do this, this and this. And we're going to get them into a health professional as quickly as we can, because it means a recovery is going to be faster. But you know, how hard is it? If we say, all right, Joel, I'm gonna make an appointment with you know, we'll call the doctor tomorrow, we'll get you into a doctor, and then we'll go see a psychologist or whatever straightaway. And then all of a sudden, it's a five week wait, you know, it makes it really challenging for me to stand up there and say, These are the things that we're going to do. And then people in the group say, but what about this, this is a barrier, or we won't be able to do this, but it's an amazing course on I'm lucky to do it. And it's you know, good to good to know those skills and get a little bit more knowledge around it. But, you know, in the last 889 months, since doing this training, you know, I've worked with 800 850 people that I've put through that training gives me a lot of hope, in this space. Because I know I'm educating people from different communities, and whether it's with a university or a community group, or a sports group and things like that, I know that they can take those skills outside of that environment, to a wider range of an environment as well and help as many people as possible.


Joel Kleber  22:47

Now, what do you what are your thoughts about workplaces, because I think workplaces now like to signal, they do a lot for mental health. And they say we're donating to be on blue or whatever. But the reality on the inside of the workplace is really different. A good example was recently that unfortunate lady who worked for KPMG, who chose to end her life by jumping the building. Now it's very hard to hear that. And so if anyone says it, but you've got what, but they will be promoting our we do all this stuff for mental health and have all the images and stuff at the internal workings of the companies, probably not conducive to that sort of stuff. So what's your pain from going into so many of these environments or knowing people from these environments around? What's projected on the outside of the business to what actually happens in businesses? What's your sort of?


Michael Donehue  23:29

Always find hard with this? I guess, question or topic is, you're always going to get a different message from I guess, a group of managers, but also, you know, from the staff, you know, are they ever do this, they don't do this, you know, we should be doing more of this and that kind of stuff. And I suppose for me, when I'm always going in there, and I'm only there for an hour or maybe two days, you know, depending on the course that I'm doing, it makes it hard to get a full gauge on what's actually happening. But for me, the thing that I've seen, you know, since COVID, it seems that there are a lot more people doing a lot more stuff to put the time and effort into the well being of their staff, because I think a lot of people have realized that it has been a challenging time and a challenging period for a lot of people. So to see the buy in from different organizations, and I guess universities with their students for the well being of their staff, or just their their small community has been amazing. And I actually have I think I've seen more of a positive shift from the negative that we've had over the last three years, because they've kind of noticed that they are struggling a little bit more. And I'm not I'm not the one going in and saying look, I've got all the answers, but I can share part of my lived experience but then also, you know, the evidence based side of things as well for the Mental Health First Aid that can give people some tips and tricks on what they can do to look after themselves. But it's always hard for me to gauge that know what they're actually doing on the inside to the outside. But a lot of organizations I work with, I've got an amazing EAP in place, so that the the employees can actually access that they might be able to get six to 10 free visits, whether it be with a nutritionist, a mental health, professional, all of those things. So I think whether it's mental health in an organization or overtime in an organization or you know, things without like outside an organization, I think we can always get better. At everything that we do, you know, I reckon, for me, I'm always striving to be better at something that I might have done yesterday or the day before, and things like that. And I think I've noticed that with a lot of organizations these days that they are trying to get better. Now, there's always going to be things that they might be able to tweak, but for them to, I guess, put the time effort and money into their staff is amazing. And the one example I always use is I've worked with vz a lot over the last, probably four or five years, with a lot of their staff. So we go in and do a lot of their stock for safety day trainings, and to see what they've been able to do for their staff, you know, they stop, like on their stock for safety days, they stop all of their machines, to put that energy 100% into their staff. And they were saying from stopping one of their machines for an hour that can cost them around 15 grand by stopping one of those machines. So to see a company like that, there's so many employees, and you know, I guess, maybe losing 70 to 80 grand an hour kind of thing with the machines and stopping at really gives me a lot of hope for if this is doing that, and how many other organizations out there are doing similar or the same?


Joel Kleber  26:44

That's good to hear. What's something like well, let's say a business, what could What do you think from your experiences, the most effective things they could do? Like you said, he mentioned about ERP stuff, what's something actual, that's realistic for businesses that they want to do something more to help in this space that they could actually do,


Michael Donehue  27:01

I think that the one main thing that they can probably do is just listen to the staff as much as possible, you know, whether it's, you know, maybe an idea that might be well and truly out there or, you know, a reasonable idea, you know, I think the most important thing would be just you know, take as much of it on board as possible and I know they're not going to be able to make all the changes or do everything that that staff member wants but I think you know, the more than they can listen to the staff with what might be going on but but like in the behind the four walls that we can't really see. I think that can really it can change the culture of the organization or if there are issues or if some of the employees might be feeling a little bit disgruntled with what might be happening if they're being listened to and you know, they're putting things in place to try and help the staff as much as possible. That's one of the best things that they can do but you know, always go back to the small town mentality kind of thing you know, growing up in a small town it's probably the same with a lot of organizations out there you know, damned if you do damned if you don't know people are going to be happy when something's done, but people are still going to be unhappy when something's done so I don't think we're always going to be able to please everyone but I think the more they can listen to the staff and put programs in place whether they think whether the staff think it's a waste of time or not, it just shows that they do actually care and they are looking after the staff and looking out for their well being


Joel Kleber  28:27

let's talk about depression so if you got a clinical depression or is what's your


Michael Donehue  28:33

clinical depression when I was 21 and like I said, you know from the age of 16 to 21 didn't really know what I was going through because it was that the mental health rollercoaster you know, I was up and I was down I couldn't really maintain a I guess a flat mood for a certain amount of time or you know, a regular mood for a certain amount of time. You know, that's when I decided that it was about time and actually put some steps in place to try and get back on top of everything and that's when I went to the doctor which really really helped me which and like I said before, I was fortunate about Well lucky with my experience that I had because I know that so many people don't have a good experience but yeah, I'm a lot better now. But you know there's still days or weeks where I feel that flat or I'm up and down but I've got those better coping strategies in place to look after myself


Joel Kleber  29:25

so for people who don't know like we obviously all here there's the most people and I think mental health now they'll think depression anxiety right but they might not know they've never experienced that especially with depression that what it's really affects someone so can you just talk about how you obviously mentioned at the start with your story, but what's Can you describe it if as best as someone who doesn't know never really experienced that what depression or what clinical depression due to you and and what it would feel like for some of you discovered here,


Michael Donehue  29:52

I'll try and do it in I guess a short space because, you know, I went through different stages with mine, you know, it could have been days where I didn't want to get out of bed, you know, you hear that probably one of the most common ones, you know, I'd stay in bed, whether it be was because I didn't feel comfortable to get out of bed, I didn't want to see the day or things like that. But it was also go back to sleep as well as either sleeping too much. Or then there was times where I wasn't sleeping at all. So I was always the life of the party, I was always pretty happy. But for me, it eventually went from being that to isolating myself, steering clear of the people that I loved and trusted and felt comfortable with and not actually doing the things that I enjoy. So you know, love my music and going to gigs and things like that I was trying to find ways to get out of that kind of stuff and making excuses. So they didn't have to see my mates or catch up with them and things like that. So the things for me was, it was either too much sleep or lack of sleep, you know, isolating and not seeing the people that I cared about. And they cared about me, even though I felt like I was isolated. And on my own, I knew that there was so many people out there that cared. And I say that I knew when I probably didn't feel like I really knew. But then for me, it was also gained a lot of weight, which then also impacted my moods as well. So the most, the most, I guess common ones that we're probably heard of, were the ones that I was really experiencing. So the isolation, the lack of sleep, or too much sleep, eating too much then gaining weight, but then also leading to the severe spectrum of those suicidal thoughts. And I look back. Now at the life that I had, when I wasn't really educated about this stuff, after doing the Mental Health First Aid training, I look back and go, I was living with this, I was living with this. And I can just like reel off all these things. When I look at the list in the training, as I can relate to this stuff. 100% now like I wish I had known sooner of what I was going through and what I was leaving with. But you know, the lack of enjoyment and activities and then trying to escape with alcohol, you know, all of those things, were the stuff that I was really experiencing on a daily basis at times. And it was certain triggers for me that led me to a lot of those things. Like I said, with the Black Saturday fires, that was probably the biggest trigger for me and my mental health, which put me back to square one, because I was drinking a lot. And I thought that, you know, what lack of education, I've had a bad day, I'm depressed. I've had two bad days, I'm depressed. But now you've got to be in that that window for two weeks or longer to actually have depression. And I look back at that now and go, where I was living like this for five years. Why the hell didn't I do something about it. But I thought as a young kid, living in the country, having fun with my mates, that thought that I was just meant to be up and down, no drinking beers and all that kind of thing. But then I look back at it, that the sleep, the isolation, the lack of enjoyment and activities that drinking now they were the key things for me that I can look back now and go, that was depression. And I wish I had have known a little bit earlier because I would have got help sooner.


Joel Kleber  33:13

I was gonna say with it with going in the country. I don't think people realize it's even more like your reputation and all that sort of stuff. You can build it up in your head. And it's really embarrassing if you do you think it's embarrassing, right? If you if you had that, as especially being a teenager or a young man, if you're doing sports and stuff like that, you can't show any weakness, especially to young men, or just get sorted


Michael Donehue  33:33

out. So that's one thing that I've realized now is you know, it's not actually I'm fortunate because I grew up in a, I guess, an emotional family. You know, my dad, my younger brother, you know, we're emotional guys, which has taught me, I guess, to be emotional. And you know, I'm, I'm not ashamed to say that. But you kind of do put on that false front when you are out in the public eye. You know, I was putting on that mask in public all the time. And I was laughing I was smiling. Everyone's icon makes a legend. You know, he's so happy, so funny. But I'd get home and yard or treat my family like crap. But you get to Game Day on a Saturday. country towns shops probably close at 1230. Everyone goes down, they watch footy, they watch the netball and as soon as you cross that white line, you don't want to show weakness because your teammates are gonna go Oh, mix week is crap today, like steer clear of him, you know, was even playing today. But we put on this false front when we don't even have to, you know, like I think the sooner we learn more about ourselves and learn more about our our emotions and normalizing these topics. It can be actually okay to go up to the coach and go look, I'm actually feeling a bit off today. Or, you know, this week, I'm unsure why but I just wanted to let you know, because I think that builds a stronger Environment and Community when we are actually open and honest with ourselves and the people around us. rather than, you know, going out and playing bad game of footy, and they go, Oh, but he's normally really good. Why did he play so poorly today? I think that if we are more open and honest about that, within those, those walls with, with a sporting team especially, that's how we break down, break down those barriers and normalize it for other people so that they're experiencing something similar, they can actually go out and get the help that they might need as well.


Joel Kleber  35:26

I agree with you, Mark. And I think there's definitely a being vulnerable takes a lot of courage, right? I think it's something that needs to be encouraged more in young men, because as you said, if you're vulnerable to someone, or your family and your friends, obviously, you got treated with a lot of respect. And now you've got all the help. Are you sad to ask for it? Right? Are you being vulnerable with them, I think a lot of people don't realize that if you are vulnerable with other people, it's very rare that someone's going to throw it in your face or, or call you're weak or anything, I think it's extremely rare. So they're having that strength or that courage to be vulnerable, as you were, you would have been treated a lot of love and respect back and would have made you feel really good and be able to sort of recover and get yourself.


Michael Donehue  36:02

It's interesting, you know, some of the presentations I've done in the past year, you get people come up and say, Oh, I don't know how you've been through that, or I don't know how you're able to share that in front of a group without getting emotional. Now, I could talk to 100 groups of people, I could do 100 podcasts, and I won't get emotional, sharing certain experiences in my life. But then there's one that catches me off guard, and I'll actually get emotional. But I think one of the biggest problems that we make in Australia with our culture, is if someone gets upset in front of people, they automatically say, sorry. And it's like, What are you sorry about? Now, this is who you are, if you're an emotional person, if it's impacted you, you've got nothing to be sorry about it all, you know, if you get upset, you know, it's actually an amazing thing to say, because that's how we do change your culture. And you know, like you said, showing our vulnerability is actually a really powerful thing for not only us as an individual, but showing those other people around us as well.


Joel Kleber  37:01

Where do you get the foresight to do it at a young age? Because you obviously, you said a lot of really on the ball stuff in regards to as a young man to come with that force. That's really impressive. I know, I wouldn't have been able to do it. And a lot of people that was something where your your parents held to you? Or is it when you open up to your family? They told you you should do this. And this was just only your own self realization, where you said, I've got to lose some weight I'm going to stop drinking, or how did you come about? How that maturity to do it? Because a lot of people don't have that, Michael, you're sort of very, I think you're probably really rare and how you had that foresight to sort of check drastically change your own life as himself with some personal responsibility, which is very impressive. So is that something where it was just personal responsibility? Took it on yourself? Or how'd you


Michael Donehue  37:41

pretty much was at my best mates, 21st Birthdays, I'd probably had about 40 beers. And my girlfriend at the time, you know, she came up to me and just said, I think you actually need some help. And I was like, well, one, looking at the Mental Health First Aid training outside, probably not the right time to actually say that to me, after I've had about 30 or 40 years, but as I will if at the time, you know, in a relationship, if she seen the signs, and if she thinks I'm not 100%, maybe I do put the time and effort into myself to actually do something like that and awaited the Sunday, you know, to get over the hangover. And then Monday, I thought, you know, now's the time. No, I'm going to actually do something like that. So it was probably a little bit of a helping hand. But, you know, went to the went to the GP had the chat with my parents. And, you know, two weeks later, my girlfriend broke up with me. So bit of a bit of a trigger for me, because I felt like in that two weeks, I've made a bit of progress. I was chipping away at everything and feeling good. But I guess you know, did I know it sounds very cliche, but those kinds of things really did make me stronger. You know, not having to do it on my own. But having the people around me that I felt comfortable with and that kid and loved me so much. Now, that conversation on Saturday night, probably at the wrong time because I was intoxicated. But it was one of those things, I thought, well, I can either do it to try and repair the relationship or continue that relationship. Or I can keep doing it for myself. And honestly, I did it for both things. But then it obviously didn't play out in the two weeks after that. But I thought I've made the made that move now. Let's keep chipping away. And let's you know, get back on top of this as much as I possibly can. And it made me learn a lot more about myself. And I think once I was actually myself, it really helped with me, with relationships around me and I didn't have to pretend to be someone that I wasn't because the thing that looking back now, and I've always said I actually thought the hardest part was opening up and talking about what I was going through. But as difficult as what it was. Once I started opening up and sharing how I was feeling, I realized that putting on the mask and going out in public was 10 times harder. So once you actually get Get out in the open and say, This is who I am. This is what I'm going through. If you don't like who I am, you know, well and good, I'll do it on my own, or I'll you know, work in a different circle or get different friends, you know, once you get it out there in the open, makes it even easier to actually put steps in place to look after yourself. Because the people that stick around you and help you out are the ones that actually really care about me, but also the people that I care about as well.


Joel Kleber  40:27

That's what I mean, I love what we say about the mask, because I think the mask is something I've talked about before but that you're right, everyone has a mask, right? When you present yourself to certain people like you're presenting itself to me, I'm forcing myself to you. Everyone has a mask of some sort of form, right. But as you said, where you can get that real freedom and liberation, when you let it down. And as you said, just let it all out, be vulnerable to whoever and the ones who stick around obviously there for you and the ones who aren't. Well, they weren't there for you in the first place. But I think you're right, how will how can you advise them people to bring that mask down? Because there's a lot of fronts, you would know from? From from what you've been saying is there's a lot everyone puts on a front and some regards to not showing any weakness or vulnerability? How is it best for someone who to pull down that mask? Is that something where you think they should talk to family and friends? Or should they confide in their GP and go to psychologists route? Or should they use a hotline route? How should someone go back?


Michael Donehue  41:19

I think it's it goes back to you know the person that you are feeling the most comfortable with and who you trust the most. And I think also finding out the method of how you want that support to you know, if you are ready to you know, let down that mask and I guess be vulnerable with someone. So whether it be a GP hotline or things like that, the one thing that I've always asked someone is, you know, how would you like that support. So whether it be they feel comfortable with someone face to face, whether they want to do it over a zoom session, whether it's a text, phone call, whatever it might be, I always find out, you know, what way they actually want that support, but also just who they feel comfortable with. So it might be that it's a mom or dad. And you know, I know that I'm lucky. And there's a lot of people out there that haven't been as fortunate as me, in their lifetime that could probably turn to their parents. But for me, you know, my parents were amazing. But all I say is you know, find the person you feel comfortable with and that you trust that they're not going to go out and share with the whole town because we know in small towns and rumors and stories can travel pretty quickly. But you know, just finding who they feel comfortable with and getting it out there. Because once you get it out there once people then know what you might be going through, you know, I never say that I understand what someone is going through. But I can relate. So if they if they did it out there, if they start sharing, then you can start putting small steps in place to actually getting back on top of everything. So even if you do feel ashamed of what you're going through, or you know, you feel like you're going to be judged, find the person that isn't going to judge you just find that person, you can get that stuff off your chest too. And then start putting things in place little goals or little steps to try and get back to where you really want to be because life is meant to be happy, and will always be you know, adult challenges and harder hands. But if we can put those things in place to look after yourself, it's going to be one of the best things that we do.


Joel Kleber  43:22

Some great advice. Now as well as you about in your role as a mental health first aid trainer, what are some misconceptions or some things that you hear from people around mental illness or mental health? What are some things that are still some big misconceptions that need more education?


Michael Donehue  43:38

The one thing, the key one is don't talk about suicide, because you can put that idea or that thought in their head. If we actually talk about suicide, and we asked that question directly to the person that we care about, it can actually put a little bit of confidence in them, because we are showing that we care and we want to help them out as much as we possibly can. So if anyone here listening, you know, things about if you can't ask suicide, or suicidal question, or you can ask if they are suicidal? No, just ask it. Because you're better off to ask a question like that, no matter how hard it might be, you're better off to ask it because we want to do that because we care about them, we love them, and we want to keep them safe. So you're not actually going to put that idea in their head, but you know, it's actually going to be a really good tool to help them out. Because the more information we can get out of a situation like that, the better the better care, we are going to be able to give them whether that's, you know, one on one as a trusted friend or a family member, or getting them into a health professional. So I think that's that's probably the the most important one, you know, let's let's ask the hard hitting questions. Because the more we ask them, the more breaks down the stigma, the more comfortable they will feel with it. And you know, they might cup it is so don't be stupid. I'm not thinking about that. But we're doing it because we care, we're asking that question because we want to make sure that they are okay. And the other one, and some of the other the mental illnesses or mental health problems that aren't spoken about as much, you know, you look at psychosis. The one thing that I guess frustrates me the most is, we look at movies, we look at cinema, we look at TV shows, if we see someone in a movie with psychosis, the first thing that they're portrayed as is, you know, the psychotic killer, no steer clear of them, you know, they're going to be, they're going to be crazy, they're going to be mad, but it's actually not the case. So, you know, if we can teach more people about that kind of stuff, you know, there's people out there that believe everything that happens in movies, you look at some of the movies out there, and they think, oh, that's got to be 100%. Real. But if we can break down that barrier, and stigma around that, they are crazy and things like that, it's going to make it a less non less judgmental space to not only work in, but to be able to support other people as well. So a lot of the time, they're going to be more frightened of what's actually going on in their own life for them to be crazy, crazy, or lash out at other people around them. So let's support the person for who they are and what they're going through. And net, let's not judge, because if we do go in with that judgmental approach, we're not going to be able to support them as much as we possibly can.


Joel Kleber  46:29

Now, what's your thoughts on the so obviously, mental health everyone knows about mental health on now in some regard, but in regards to there, everyone's understanding is different. But what needs to happen now, because there's, there's a lot of awareness going on surface level around awareness around depression and anxiety. So there's heaps of awareness on this heaps of organizations and movements and push ups and all this sort of stuff, which is great, because it's just creating conversations, and it does help people. What needs to happen next, in your opinion, from someone who


Michael Donehue  46:55

works in, it's a tough question. And you know, if you've had the magic wand, that would probably be more more professionals in the space that could I guess, eliminate those wait times, because depending on the location or in, it could be a really long wait time to actually see a health professional, which might be able to help you out. But I think, for me, if we could get more health professionals in the space, and it is a really challenging space to, to be in and on, on not in the, you know, the hospital setting or a clinic setting. But if we could get more people in the space that either wanted to help others in that, I guess, the clinical capacity, that's going to be massive, because then it does eliminate those barriers have a wait time. But, you know, I guess, you know, we talk about the awareness and things like that, but maybe even more awareness around some of the less spoken about mental health problems, which I think could be really beneficial as well, because, you know, we always like you said, we always hear about depression, anxiety, which is awesome, because he is breaking down the stigma around that. But you know, for me, even in this space, you're not hearing as much on the socials or out there in the in the media and things like that around, you know, bipolar psychosis, all those other, I guess less spoken about ones because I don't know if it's because it's not as glamorous if that's the right word to use, if I if that, if that makes sense. But there's not as much discussion around those things. But I think if we could get more health professionals to remove those wait times, and then speak more about the less spoken about mental health problems, I think that could really break down the stigma even more. And it might make people realize that there might be something you're not 100% right with them going on that they can actually have the courage to go out and see one of those health professionals


Joel Kleber  48:53

live in diagnosis because a lot of people who people with bipolar for example, have 17 times more likely to commit suicide than someone who's not not doesn't have Bipolar, right? So far more risk. But around 20% of people who commit suicide who have Bipolar, don't actually get diagnosed with bipolar actually undiagnosed. So people actually getting not getting diagnosed correctly, is a big issue as well. So when they see mental health awareness, I think depression, anxiety, even the doctors who are three may be diagnosed with depression and stuff actually incorrectly diagnosing conditions which could be bipolar, one, bipolar two, or even schizophrenia, which has been a big issue. But I was gonna say in regards to the money itself, so obviously, there's a lot of money that's getting thrown around by now by governments, and there's obviously various things they get allocated towards, how do you see money being effectively spent? So you've you've talked about extra professionals, which is great, because but it's a timeframe for these young people through university and sort of start to become psychologists and that sort of thing. Where else do you think the money could be spent that's been collected because there's a heap of it that could be have a bit more of an effective Let's say outcome for some


Michael Donehue  50:01

great question. And I know that there's, you know, so many mental health organizations or charities out there that are doing some amazing work. But, you know, I'd love to, I guess, see maybe more more money put into more programs and things like that, that might actually have that positive influence where it might be a cost to someone, because I guess cost is a big barrier for a lot of people, whether they're going to get professional help or visit a charity or an organization and things like that. But if there's more money, put into different programs, and I know there's, there's a lot of programs out there that are at no cost to someone, you know, that could make a really big difference to, you know, the support that someone might actually get, and I guess the information that they might be able to take in, because I think that the thing for me that I've always, I guess quest questioned a little bit or, you know, concerned or maybe a little bit unsure of is where is the actual money going, you know, it's very easy to, you know, put up a massive banner on social media and say, This is what we're doing to this day, or, you know, this week or this next month, or things like that, I think it's, it's very difficult to know, 100%, where the money's going, you know, with the amount of employees have got social media team or whatever. And that sounds like I'm being very negative. But if we could see more of where the money was going, was put into more programs and things like that, that could help some of the people out there that are struggling, and that might be able to see a health professional for a little bit, maybe, maybe it's money that they can put into goes back to health professionals again, but maybe they can put on free psychologists, you know, or free counselors or whoever it might be, just so they can actually give someone somewhere to go to get that professional help if they are waiting for professional in their hometown, of a really small population that it might take a long time to get into.


Joel Kleber  51:56

What are some organizations that you know of that people could donate to maybe instead of the, let's say, the big brands, which has teamed to get all the generic, let's say funding from the public? What are some organizations that you know if that, maybe that's a bit smaller, or something that people first want


Michael Donehue  52:09

to always go to his mind for laws, they're amazing, you know, they're based in Gippsland, in Victoria, and I've done a lot of work with Matt, he's an absolute champion does some amazing work there. And, you know, I've been doing the Mental Health First Aid trainings for, you know, fit for his charity, and then for the community and the broader community. But, you know, to see what he's been able to do, you know, especially go back to the Mental Health First Aid, you know, he gets the the grants from the government, but what he does is he subsidizes those programs, so people can actually afford them a little bit more. So now he's putting those those skills and the knowledge into different communities, but he's doing some amazing programs. He's working with a lot of primary schools to try and educate people from a younger age. So for me, you know, the first one I always go to is Matt, and mindful, you know, they're doing some awesome work. And I'm really fortunate to be able to work with him and work with his small team.


Joel Kleber  53:10

Awesome. And let's talk about the shirt you've got on. So what's the what's the shirt and


Michael Donehue  53:13

what's your so I started journey apparel, in 2020, just before COVID as a bit of a, I guess, a side hustle to try and help as many people as I possibly could. And one word of advice for everyone out there do not start a business or a side business, just before a pandemic hits. But you know, I've been I've been lucky that you know, don't take a wage from the clothing brand, because I've got my full time job. But it's all about getting people to talk more about mental health and sharing their stories because everyone's got a story. And that's the hashtag, you know, that I use, everyone has a story. And you could walk around everybody in the street. And you could say, what's one good thing that's happened to you today, or one good thing has happened in your lifetime, what's one bad thing that's happened in your lifetime, and you can really get to know someone a lot more by hearing their story. And the more we share, the more it's going to, you know, break down that stigma and get more people talking about mental health problems, but also seeking help if they actually needed. So the aim of my journey was to get as many people talking, break down stigma, but also normalize those difficult conversations, because we're always going to have difficult conversations, but the more that we talk about it, the easier it gets. And, you know, hopefully, you know, I always like to try and put as much time into other people and other things as possible. The brand has probably, I guess, lacked a bit of time over the last two or three months because I've been so busy with my full time job, but for me, I want to eventually be able to get into a space or a stage where I can earn enough money from this brand where I can go this person can do mental health first died this week because they don't have a job at the moment or they're the president of the footy club. And I think they would benefit a lot from this. And then they can actually put some skills back into the sports club or their their community. So it's an organization or a brand to generate conversation. But also, I want to eventually get into a financial position where I can put the money into mental health first aid. So it gives people the skills rather than just donating $1,000 to this organization, when I'm not 100% sure where it's going to go. So at least if I'm putting someone through mental health first aid, I know that they've come from Frankston in Melbourne, they're the president of the footy club, they've got three kids, they've got a wife, and then you know, they can actually put those skills to good use by having those conversations and trying to link somebody into a health professional.


Joel Kleber  55:56

No worries, thanks. Thank you very much, Mark, for sharing your story today. I reckon we'll, we'll leave it there just because of coverage. We've covered a lot. And thank you for sharing as much as what you do. And thank you for the work you do. It's really good to see someone who's an advocate who's, who's done all the stuff that you've done, it's really, really impressive. And if we could have a few more people like you around, we definitely make things a lot better. But thank you for your time today. I really do appreciate you and where can people find out more about yourself? Do you have any? Do you have a website links? Or is there any handles?


Michael Donehue  56:23

Yes, so journey apparel, just check out journey apparel, but also, you know, if you want to look at the Alcohol and Drug Education Specialist side of things, ad so Australia, check us out, send a send us a message or you know, if you're interested in buying a t shirt, it's a weird thing. You know, I always feel guilty for selling a t shirt. But you know, that's what it's actually all about. You know, if someone buys a t shirt, there's another conversation started, which is what it's all about. So yeah, visit journey apparel, Instagram, or Facebook. And yeah, jump into the messages, send us a message, more than happy to have a chat to anyone. And the thing I always say is I'm not a professional. And I'm not here to give everyone the answers. And please don't message me if you are after answers or if you're after a diagnosis or treatment. That's not what I'm there for. But you know, if I can break down the stigma and break down those barriers for one person, I might be able to push them in the right direction.


Joel Kleber  57:22

Oh, good, man. Well, I'll put those links in the description and thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate big thank you to Michael Donahue for sharing his story in the lived experience and for reaching out so I do ask the guests regularly so thank you for doing that being proactive and please don't feel shy doing it reach out if you've got something to say happy to have you on about it. And just a great story that Michaels you know taking that negative in his life and turn it into a real positive and that's what his career is now trying to help people so we need a lot more people like Michael a lot more men like Michael taking ownership over their story and speaking about the way they're doing, what a top fell on hopefully and stay in contact and having on again to see how he's gone with everything in the community. But he's seriously changing lives so good on him and we need more people like him and make sure you check out journey appel with the link in the notes as well. If you did enjoy the episode and stay to the end, I really do thank you and appreciate you very much. And if you can take your time, please leave a review whether it be on Apple, iTunes or Spotify. It really does help the show and let someone know if you if you want to, you know to help someone out or maybe listen to this story. Please share any episode to them which might help them but until next episode, I hope you have a good week and thanks for listening to live experience.

Michael DonehueProfile Photo

Michael Donehue

Mental Health Advocate

Michael Donehue is a mental health advocate, clothing brand owner, and the national services manager for ADES Australia, which specialises in delivering education programs Australia-wide.

Michael is also an accredited MHFA trainer who shares his story in detail about his mental health journey to help others, especially young men.

If you know anyone in your life who is struggling, this is a great listen or an episode you can forward to them.

Michaels Clothing Brand - https://journeyapparel.com.au/
ADES Australia - http://adesaustralia.com/