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Why I needed a break from R4R and why I'm glad I took it
One morning, I was standing above the Blue Pool at Bermagui. The clouds on the horizon were dark, the wind was immense, and the waves that usually crashed into the side of the cliff face were creeping over into the pool itself. It reminded me of a story about some people who had been in the pool during similar weather, where they were swept out to sea when a large wave covered the pool entirely. Fortunately, that story ended well, with all of them making it safely back to land. But the risk of a similar wave appearing was front of mind that morning.
As I looked over the pool, I couldn’t help but think “geez I hope those swimmers don’t get swept out”… and as I reflected on this thought, I recognised that it wasn’t there because I simply had their well-being in mind… it was there because I didn’t want to be forced into the decision of whether to jump in the water to help them or not. I can’t say what I would have done in that instance… though I most certainly would have jumped in and required saving myself… but upon this realisation, I recognised the feeling… I recognised that through Running for Resilience (R4R), I have been metaphorically jumping into the water to help others for 3 years now. And like the water that day in Bermagui, jumping in the waters of mental health has its risks. They are certainly not as acute as an open-water rescue… but they exist.
I’ve tried to describe this to people close to me before, coincidentally, through another water analogy. I would often describe some of my efforts with R4R as swimming in murky waters, particularly with my efforts that involve revisiting my parent’s death in a public forum and everything that goes with it. It’s fatiguing. It’s bloody well worth it, but it’s fatiguing. Constantly revisiting the trauma associated with my Dads death is tiring in its own right, but engaging with, and trying to understand the concept of suicide is tough going. Especially when the shrapnel from losing someone you identify with to suicide prompts you to fear suicide itself. This doesn’t mean that I’ll stop jumping into these waters, I know I will in pursuit of our goal and self-improvement, but it would be naïve of me to not admit that whilst this exercise has been immensely beneficial for my own mental health, there’s a point where I need to hop out and dry off.
A much-needed break
Given this, and after our big shared birthday celebrations with the Dock, I made the quiet decision to be minimally involved over the break, to give myself some breathing room… and I’m glad I did. As I watched R4R from afar, I was filled with pride to see fellow runners take the lead with minimal guidance, representing R4R on their own terms, and to be honest, I’m not surprised… Reflecting on the last 3 years, there are countless examples of people stepping up to the plate when needed. The willingness to contribute to our community by walking the walk is maybe the best thing about R4R, and when I made the decision to be minimally involved over the break, I was hoping the trend would continue… and boy oh boy, am I glad it did!
The ability of our community to step up and lead itself is powerful. It means that our community is resilient. It means that if any of the figureheads within our community had to take a step back, R4R would continue. Perhaps most importantly, it means that if R4R were to all of a sudden disappear… there would be a group of people that would still exercise together every week, and be there for each other if needed. In my opinion, this ability is integral for achieving our goal on an ongoing basis. If we are going to make Canberra Suicide Free, we can’t rely on a group of leaders or a community such as ours to always lead the charge, we need a culture of individual resilience, a culture of collective resilience, and a culture with an innate belief that all suicides are preventable and any suicides are unacceptable*, from a societal point of view.
Achieving cultural change is an intangible, delicate, and complicated beast. But what we’ve seen over the past 3 years, and especially over the past 3 weeks, is that whilst we’re early on in the piece, we’re on track. We have more than 250 people who run with R4R each week… that’s 250 people at a minimum, who believe in resilience and want to help make Canberra suicide-free. These 250 people are not just members of our community, they are members of other communities, friendship groups, and families… and by their actions with R4R, they are telling their networks that this is something they believe in. This mechanism will bring more people to R4R, but more importantly, it will lead to other communities adopting similar habits and beliefs, starting the process all over again and increasing that number of people exponentially, to a critical mass where cultural change occurs… It’s a slow burn, but it will be a hotter flame.
Community (led) is key
Shifting towards a community-led R4R has always been the plan, as I think it’s the best way to achieve the cultural change needed to save those 50 lives in Canberra every year. This is why we’ve never accepted donations, this is why we’ve never wanted to set R4R up as a business or an entity, and this is why we’ve encouraged anyone and everyone to take up R4R as their own. At the crux of this mental health crisis we’re in is the need for people to look after themselves and for people to look after each other. This requires effort, and for us to ask anything else of people when contributing to our goal would be to dilute our cause, and for us to rely on anything but effort would be contradictory to our message. R4R exists because of the efforts of everyone who’s been involved, and if we’re going to achieve our goal of Making Canberra Suicide-Free by 2033, it’s the effort that will get us there.
Thank you to everyone that has contributed to R4R so far, and thank you in advance to everyone who’ll do so in the future.
Just. Keep. Moving.