Dear anyone struggling with a mental health issue or anyone who knows someone who is. And to anyone who feels like opening up about your emotions is a sign of weakness.
I’m Lincoln Lewis and I’m an actor from Brisbane, Queensland. Recently, I was privileged to be involved in Contiki’s mission with Movember to encourage more men to open up and share their experiences with mental health issues. The message is not only extremely close to my heart but one that every single person can relate to – if not personally then definitely within a first degree of separation!
I’m happy to have joined this ever-growing movement to spread the word and highlight the benefits of opening up about your experiences, because that’s the only way we’re going to break down this stigma. This outdated notion that talking about the issues bringing you down or holding you back is somehow weak or ‘not how men should be’ is ridiculous!
Wherever this notion came from, it’s only created an emotional disconnection with those around us and more importantly, ourselves. Accepting we all feel things is part of being human and the more of us that open up, the more we’ll help prove that TRUE STRENGTH is actually about confronting one’s demons, not hiding them.
So, when we all came together to spend a day in the Blue Mountains, Sydney, the effect it had on us was amazing. The day as a whole was beyond incredible but for me, the most fulfilling part was when all the fellas sat down together and spoke about our experiences in the past. We spoke openly and honestly about our mindsets, how our life experiences have affected us, the lessons we’ve learned and eventually how opening up and confronting our issues got us out of our rut and to where we are now.
Which is: still here and growing. I felt so elated and in another word, relieved. The connection we all made in just a few hours is something I think can only be felt rather than described.
My experiences with mental health both personally and via others has changed so much across the years, but I was first introduced to what mental health is and the effects of not looking after yourself when I was 13 and my uncle took his life. My connection with him was so strong so that loss hit me like nothing I could have imagined.
Since then I’ve had my own personal struggles that affect every aspect of my life because, like many men, I tried to keep my issues to myself and thought if I just ignored them and got on with my day they’d somehow go away.
Starring in a major TV show such as Home & Away didn’t really impact my mental health. Since I was born, my family and I have been in the public eye because of my dad’s achievements in the sporting arena as a Rugby League player. But ultimately, I guess succeeding in acting meant that I was then in the spotlight, and that required a bit of processing and understanding.
Being in the public eye also means lots of personal connection. I’m someone who absolutely LOVES being around people. I love talking, establishing new friendships or relationships and so sometimes realising that some people may only speak to you because of what you’re doing professionally can be a bit of a stab in the heart.
One day I took my best mate up on his offer to call him anytime especially if sh*t was getting me down. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Friendships with my mates never fail to motivate me because over the years I’ve realised I only want to keep those around me who genuinely love and care for me like I do for them, and we all only want the best for each other. Saying that, those same people inspire and motivate me. We all have a similar mindset where we challenge each other – not in a competitive way but by boosting each other’s work ethic and resilience.
Earlier this year, I moved to Sydney to completely turn my life around. It was tough, suddenly hitting the brakes and changing everything from my everyday routine to my mindset but I’m happy to say that I feel myself again.
Through all this I’ve been able to open up conversations with many fellas – both mates and strangers. Honestly, the numbers of blokes all going through tough times and choosing not to talk about it is scary. So, through my experiences I’m thankful because I can now pay it forward and start the conversation with others.
To young men struggling with the pressures of ‘being successful’ – it’s actually great being asked this because I was having this exact chat with Dylan on our day in the Blue Mountains! What I’d like to ask young men reading this is – how are you defining ‘success’? What bar is set to be classified as ‘successful’? Success is relative to you as an individual. There’s no umbrella of success that we all fit under and that’s another silly mindset, just like the whole speaking out about our issues somehow makes us less of a man.
We only get one life, it moves by faster than we realize and our journey is as unique as our fingerprint. Success is how you define it. Whatever your passion is, go for it and if it doesn’t work out, take the lesson and keep trying. Sometimes, not getting what we want is a great teacher and can even be a blessing in disguise to show us the path that’s truly right for us. In my opinion, true success is staying true to yourself, enjoying this ride we call life and trying to always lift others up while you’re at it.
I think the key to dismantling the stigma surrounding mental illness and the idea that opening up is a weakness, is to be the example. I know that it’s a cliché but, be the change you wish to see in the world. Be there for others, check up on others. Sometimes we might not even need a resolution, we just need someone to be there and listen – to know we aren’t alone.
I know that social media can be used as much for bad, as good but in this case, the more people shouting this message of love, support and acceptance from every platform, the better. As a community, as a collective and as a big family of people having a go at this one life we’re so incredibly lucky to experience – together we can do it.
All the best out there,