Mental Health: An Inspiring Story We Can All Learn From

One of the most positive developments in the area of wellbeing over the past few years is the number of high profile people sharing their experiences with mental health challenges.

Earlier this week, one of the highest ranking people in the Australian Federal Police, Commander Grant Edwards, shared his mental health journey on the television program Australian Story. It’s an inspiring story that we can all learn from.

Here’s a summary of Grant’s journey, as described by the Australian Story website…

Australian Federal Police Commander Grant Edwards was once Australia’s strongest man. He was able to pull massive locomotives, aeroplanes and semi-trailers with his brute strength. But no amount of physical power could protect him from psychological injury.

Grant was at the coalface of the AFP’s most difficult work, heading up a team investigating child exploitation. The thousands of images and videos he was exposed to took their toll. But as one of those charged with protecting society, he’d always been taught to harden up, close those boxes in the mind and move on.

After a highly-charged year training police in Afghanistan, things began to unravel. It took a breakdown for Grant to understand he was injured in ways not seen by the naked eye. After the suicide of an AFP colleague, he decided to go public with his own struggles, becoming a lightning rod for change inside the AFP. Now Commander of the Americas, Grant is on a mission to remove the stigma of mental health not just in policing, but society-wide.

The program delved into post traumatic stress disorder and the need for greater support for our service men and women. It also shared a range of lessons and practical steps that we can all use in our own lives.

Action Steps

Here are some of the points that stood out to me as relevant for most of us…

For looking after yourself…

1. Speaking your truth can be an instant weight off. Sometimes the people around you can see that you are not your normal self, and are waiting for you to be ready to receive help.

2. There is always hope. As Grant said “You can go through this and you can still have your career and get your life back together”.

For looking after others…

3. You never can tell. Even people who are perceived as being strong can still struggle at times. Don’t assume people are okay.

4. It’s not about the situation at hand. Sometimes people come through a hard time and seem to be okay and then fall apart later. Things build up.

5. The manager’s response is all-important. It can make all the difference for a staff member to know that their manager has their back. Commissioner Andrew Colvin’s response to Grant in that initial meeting was the key to where Grant is today.

For a cultural shift in workplaces and society generally…

6. We need to remove the stigmas around mental health and make it okay to say “I might need a break” or “I might need a little bit of help”. We can all do that by being open and supportive to each other.

Watching this program is 30 minutes well spent. Watch the program or download the transcript here.

What could you do this week to use Grant’s story for positive benefit in your own life or workplace?