Hearing Brodie Cramer speak of his mental health journey can be confronting, even uncomfortable at times. But that's the point.
Brodie bares everything to his Facebook followers; introducing them to the 17-year-old boy from Nhill who first came to terms with his mental illness in a daze at a Melbourne psychiatric ward.
He guides them through his life's toughest moments - from hospital admissions, upheavals and to a suicide attempt - speaking with an honesty that is both perceptive and empathetic.
It was that understanding of his experiences and their insights that compelled Brodie, now 24, to set about helping others.
So he went down to the riverside, gave a slight nod to his mum - supportive as ever - behind the camera and shared his story in the first of what would become a series of videos.
Some days later, on an otherwise nondescript afternoon, his openness remained.
"I was nervous about the video, but I was happy to share the story and be open and honest about everything. I wasn't ashamed of anything," he said.
"I've been on this journey for seven years now, and I'm at the strongest I've ever been in my life. I take regular medication and still seek help. I've changed my lifestyle and completely turned my life around. To think I didn't plan on being here still and now I'm doing this.
"Mental health is a real illness, and it requires treatment and hard work to fix. People need to understand that and accept that, so there's no stigma attached to (mental health issues)."
He said the psychiatric ward at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital can be a daunting place.
Brodie remembers fainting on his first visit, before later coming to in a secluded unit on the top floor of the hospital.
"I was absolutely petrified that I was going to a psychiatric ward for the first time," he shared in a video to his followers.
"Towards the end, when I got better there, I felt like the real Brodie Cramer that I know now and felt strong and content.
"I went for a walk through the hospital, and I realised that day that what I was dealing with wasn't actually that bad. There were kids in there in wheelchairs or with oxygen bottles. Or kids with shaved heads, with leukaemia who might not even be here today.
"I thought to myself my issues were still manageable. I could still walk; I could still talk. It woke me up, that experience."
A year later, Brodie was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and began medication.
Over time, personal circumstances and employment opportunities changed, eventually leading him into a period of time off medication.
In 2019, Brodie reached a crossroads.
"I was at my sister's wedding, and I just had this bizarre (insight) into my thought pattern. I was thinking after the wedding I was just going to end my life. My depression was really bad, my anxiety was really bad, and I couldn't see any other way out. That was my thought process at my sister's wedding, which just isn't right," he told his followers.
Brodie moved back in with his mother, as he battled with his illness.
"I just wasn't getting better. Every hour, every minute, things were just getting worse. I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat, I couldn't work," he said.
"That episode happened, and the suicide attempt, and the overdose and it wasn't good."
At the start of this year, Brodie was admitted to a psychiatric ward at Ballarat.
"I spent 18 nights in a public facility that's a bit rougher. That was scary; I spent 20 hours in a seclusion unit," he said.
"I thought to myself 'Brodie you're 23, nearly 24. You've got a daughter on the way, you've got a kid at home who loves you. You've got a job and people at home who love you. You're needed in this world. This is your last chance to be a better person.
"You have a lot of time to think. It really wakes you up and sorts you out. I would like to see something like it in this area.
"My vision now is I want to see some sort of mental health facility or crisis centre in Horsham. It's the central part of the Wimmera, it's a massive area, and the suicide rate is way too high. That early intervention is critical."
Ballarat remains the closest place that Wimmera residents can access mental health beds.
In its submission to last year's Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System, Ballarat Health Service said emergency departments in the region were dealing with significantly higher numbers of people needing treatment for self-harm than other parts of Victoria.
Horsham had the highest rate in the region, at 8.3 cases of intentional injury per 1000 people treated in hospital. The overall rate for the region was 4.8, more than 50 per cent higher than the Victorian average of 3.1.
"Even if they had 10 to 15 beds here, or whatever they want to do, that is still something," Brodie said.
"That's 15 lives or 10 lives that matter that are getting help. I'd rather have that then go to 10 funerals."
Things didn't become automatically easier after leaving Ballarat, but Brodie talks of the birth of his daughter soon after as a turning point.
"Coming home from the facility I wasn't cured, I was still probably only 40 or 50 per cent. But the birth of my daughter in March really made me think life is a good gift and something special and it's worth living. So now I want to try and help people the best I can," he said.
Brodie's Facebook page has more than 300 followers - but that's just the start of his mission for mental health advocacy in the Wimmera.
"Once the pandemic has slowed down, I want to get people together and make trips away and get people talking. Or maybe do a fundraiser, like a fun run from Dimboola to my home town Nhill," he said.
Alongside this, Brodie has enrolled in a mental health course at university, with intentions to work in the sector.
"I was working with a counsellor a couple of years ago, and she asked if I'd ever considered doing (the job) myself. I said 'yeah, I'm going to do it one day, when I'm ready'. I'm ready now," he said.
"I know what it's like to be nothing, you know, and I want to be someone now.
"I've got an illness, and it doesn't define me, it's just part of who I am. I've got no shame in speaking out about it. I'd do it over and over if I have to.
"Never give up. You are loved. Speak up."
If you or someone you know needs support, help is available:
- Lifeline- 13 11 44
- Mensline Australia Line - 1300 789 978
- Kids Help - 1800 55 1800
- Suicide Call Back Service - 1300 659 467
- headspace Horsham - 5381 1543
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