Just over 6 years ago a quick succession of life events including the loss of a job, a relationship breakup and a car accident led to Martin Johnson, 28, emerging into a much darker place inside his head. This crippled him to the point where he couldn’t leave his bed for weeks, uncertain of the thoughts and feelings inside his mind.
Today Martin finds it difficult to remember the young person he was then, compared to the optimistic, resilient, energy-filled human he is now, even though there are still times when stress builds and his anxiety levels surge. The difference now is that he has the tools, self-awareness and support both personally and professionally, combined with lots of positive life experience to draw upon, so he can quickly address and move forward.
But he hasn’t forgotten the very real struggle brought on by a series of external factors that can impact anyone – and the relief that came from beginning to share his inner pain with loved ones and professionals. He wants other young people living with mental health challenges to know their story matters, and that with support, they too, can thrive not just survive.
Martin’s own story and his passion to support other young people is the driving force behind the Y’s national “Inside Our Minds” campaign, which will share the stories of seven young people with lived experience of mental health issues, over seven days, during National Mental Health Week from October 10-17.
Last year got the campaign off the ground, fully funded by his own Y, the National Y and one other Y to share the first of seven powerful stories of young people. You can see their stories here.
This year, Martin has managed to get the support of National Youth mental health organisation Headspace and inspire three more Ys to get on-board, to share costs and to help take the campaign to an even bigger audience.
The Y believes in the power of inspired young people like Martin, and also understands that the mental health of young people is among their number one concerns nationally and globally, and has never been more challenged than it is now through the impacts of the global pandemic.
Martin now uses his anxiety as a strength, and turns what can be an overwhelming experience into something exciting and challenging when he talks and presents – which he loves doing. When he can’t sit still he likes to think of new ways to engage his mind which he pours into his role as a human resources professional with the Y in West Australia, as a global Y change agent, and outside of work as a volunteer soccer mentor, as the volunteer manager of the Inside Our Minds campaign, and as a friend to many.
His ultimate dream is for mental health issues to be managed and perceived in the same way that physical health issues are managed and perceived, with no stigmatisation and less judgement. He would also like to see the Inside our Minds campaign grow and for the young people whose stories are shared to be further empowered with youth mental health first aid training, so they can be better equipped to support others around them, and to become even bigger advocates for other young people.
If you would like to find out more about the campaign visit www.ymca.org.au