Top Tips on how to Improve Your Mental Health

me&my health up podcast episode #29- Transcript

Anthony Hartcher 0:00
Welcome to another episode of me&my health up. I’m your host, Anthony Hatcher, I’m a clinical nutritionist and lifestyle medicine specialist health up seeks to enhance and inspire and enlighten the well being of others.

And today, we’re doing an episode for November. So Movember is men’s mental health month. And I’ve chosen to touch on men’s mental health. And I’ve got an expert from The Banksia Project, which is a charity that helps support men’s mental health.

Today’s guest is James Younan, who works for the bank CEO project and has a passion in mental health. He has a very diverse background. He’s a civil engineer, and did some time with the Defence Force.

And over the years, has really been very passionate about mental health and is sort of taking him on a tangent away from civil engineering and working in that industry, to really getting into men’s health in terms of, a cert for in personal training, and was aspiring to become a nutritionist, but decided to really focus on mental health.

He’s arrived at the banks of projects. But I’ll I’ll certainly hand it over to James to share more about his story. How are you, James?

James Younan 1:27
I’m great. Thank you for having me, Anthony. It’s it’s great to be here. And it’s great to chat to you. And I’d love to jump in straight away and clear up a few things. So I never actually worked for the Department of Defence, or I never was part of the Department of Defence. I was a contractor to them working on a lot of construction projects.

And yeah, I guess that’s just something I wanted to clarify that that intro, but otherwise, yeah, being called an expert is such a new thing for me. So that’s great to hear. But I have got my accreditation, I’ve got my Cert four in mental health as well, at the moment, which is a great thing to have, and anyone interested in that space. It’s a great little educational course to do. And it’s only a short course. And there’s a lot of great info in there.

But another way for people to get involved is obviously Mental Health First Aid, which is a big thing these days. But um, yeah, I guess that’s what I wanted to say today, because we’re going to dive into a few things that are a little bit sensitive. And the last thing I think both of us want to do is to leave any of the listeners or viewers in a negative headspace.

So I just wanted a premise that yes, we’re going to have some sensitive conversations today. Talk about some sensitive statistics. And I guess if anyone’s struggling with the inflammation, or hearing or just struggling in general, there’s some really good organisations out there. And you’ve probably heard of lifeline a million times. But Lifeline is definitely there.

For those extreme moments, those times where you just can’t get out of that headspace, you’re stuck in that funk. There’s no other route options around and they’re available on 1311 14. That’s 131114. They’re such a great organisation. But of course, if anything’s really acute, if you’re really in that bad space, there’s no other options around triple zero emergency services should always be your first option.

But of course, many great organisations out there to Suicide Callback service Beyond Blue. Are you okay? To Mensline, Australia to banks, your project, really good organisations out there, maybe just calling your friend calling somebody who’s close to you, you can trust. But not sitting with that negativity, not sitting with that darkness trying to reach out and connect with others. So that’s just what I wanted to premise our conversation on. And, and I guess I’ll put it back to you that to say where we want to kick off on.

Anthony Hartcher 3:47
Yeah. So I really interested James, in understanding your journey and how you’ve arrived, you know, this passion for men’s mental health. So yeah, if you could just share your story and how you’ve arrived to where you are today. That’d be great.

James Younan 4:02
Yeah, so as you said, I do have a very diverse background. I’m probably a classic overachiever. So I like to really pursue things to the full extent that I can have my capacity.

So I started fresh out of school and studied a Bachelor of civil engineering at Sydney University. I think I knew pretty early on in my degree, that wasn’t right. For me. It was very, I guess, very theoretically based a lot of mathematics and physics, which I love. That in that sort of mindset of design didn’t really hit with me.

I did get into a different field when I left university or going into project management. So it still sort of had that relationship with the civil engineering. But I was more identified as more of a people person I wanted to talk to people build relationships.

So project management gave me that ability, but being in the corporate world, I did notice that It wasn’t real, it wasn’t real life, you sort of you speak in code, and you just sort of, you’re not yourself, you’re putting on a mask when you’re going to work, and you’re almost faking the identity of that project manager. And it just didn’t feel like me. It wasn’t, it wasn’t who I was, when I woke up. It wasn’t who I was when I went back home. And I struggled with that for a long time, and just identifying who I really am and what it is to make, to make my wheels turn and to make me happy.

From there, I guess I started to look around at different options, but I sort of hit with my own events and extreme events in a person who was very close to me having a suicide attempt, and then that suicide attempt turned into multiple suicide attempts. And that really, really put me in a place of struggle where I wasn’t myself when I was at work. And then when I was at home, I became this different person where I wasn’t able to be myself, because all of all of myself was pouring into this person to try and help them to try and even recover myself.

So I can be that support person. So I was left in a bit of a space where all my life, it was almost like if something’s wrong, just suck it up and keep moving forward. If if you’re if you’re feeling down, it’s not good enough, you just have to do whatever it takes to keep moving forward. And what I realised quite quickly was no if you’re feeling down, sometimes you can’t function.

If you’re feeling down, sometimes the world has to stop. And and that was new to me, I had not known that about before, I had definitely looking back had gone through moments of my life where I struggled my own mental health, but it was almost like put it on the back burner and keep moving forward.

But this because it was someone who’s so close to me, just made me stop everything, and really reanalyse What is life? What is my life? What am I doing? And that’s where my journey with mental health really began and trying to understand what it is what was impacting this person what, what I could do to better help them.

One of the biggest feelings that I experienced in that time was helplessness, that helplessness of not being able to support them wanting to pour everything I have into them that it wasn’t resonating correctly, it wasn’t the right word wasn’t the right things to do, loving too much, almost over loving. So that was a big struggle. And I guess there was no pathway within the project management construction road for me to really understand what was going on there.

Funnily enough, a friend of mine put up a post on Facebook about a SBS documentary that was being made, and I’m looking for people and I fit the description of the person that we’re looking for at that time. And the series was called How mad are you was a two part series where they took 10 Australians, five of which had a three diagnosis of a mental illness, and five, which didn’t have a diagnosis, put us all together and subjected us to different experiments, different tests, different activities, and analyse us and then gave that footage to a panel of mental health experts. We tried to review the footage and suggest who had a diagnosis and who didn’t. And what we all found out, it’s very hard to tell.

Just because someone has a diagnosis doesn’t mean that they have all these tell-tale signs of that diagnosis. And just because somebody doesn’t have a diagnosis doesn’t mean that they don’t have any of those signs of what somebody who would be diagnosed with a mental illness would have. And that was really important for me at that time.

Because I was having so many of those struggles myself, I had sports spoken to professionals, but I had never received a diagnosis. So for me, it was almost like I was that person dancing on the line of if I went to a different professional, maybe they would have diagnosed me with maybe anxiety disorder, major clinical depression, just throwing some some conditions out there that I sort of didn’t relate to at that time.

I was picked out as not having a diagnosis, I guess my ability to put things on the backburner and not let them become the focus of my my day to day life was was probably prominent. But what it did leave me was this new passion and, and viewpoint on mental health and seeing how much stigma and ignorance there was out there. Seeing how many people didn’t know that mental health is different from mental illness.

So I guess that’s probably a good thing to explain to the listeners and viewers is a mental illness is a diagnosis. It’s when you see a clinician And they diagnosed you with a illness. And that doesn’t mean you should be stigmatised. It doesn’t mean you should be put in a box. That means the symptoms you are experiencing has led to this diagnosis. And now we have a number of different ways that we can recover from the diagnosis.

There may be medication, there may be just different different ways of psychology or counselling, or whatever it is that helps that person get out of whatever illness they are experiencing. And just because somebody has a diagnosis doesn’t mean that’s going to be their story for the rest of their life, they may recover from that diagnosis, they may live with that diagnosis for the rest of their life, but be able to medicate or to do whatever it takes to stop that from affecting their day to day life.

Now, mental health, on the other hand, is something that everybody experiences, if you’ve got a brain in your head, you go through mental health, but mental health is on a continuum is the way we like to view it, especially at the banks of project. So you can have good mental health, and you can have bad mental health. Having bad mental health does not mean you have a mental illness.

So I personally, some days, I feel good. And they’re the days that I’d say I have good mental health. Other days, I wake up and I can’t walk out of the house, I’m just in a funk, and just needed have a personal day, need to go to the gym, get out in the sun and go for a walk, whatever it takes to get out of that funk, and reset for the next day. And that’s absolutely okay. And that’s that’s where the stigma starts to come in. Just because one day I’m feeling really down and depressed, doesn’t mean I have depression. If I wake up, and I have a big exam or a big, a big event coming on maybe this podcast, and I feel anxiety, I feel nerves, as it may not have anxiety disorder, it just means I am struggling with my mental health on that day.

And I think speaking about it, getting that message out to people is what I really wanted to do. And I felt that somebody from from a construction background who probably doesn’t fit that stereotype of what it is to be in the mental health industry, or the Counselling Psychology world, which which is interestingly a very female dominated space, I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to get out there, I sort of break that stigma, right that that identity that people put towards what is a mental illness? What is mental health? What are the people that talk about this sort of stuff.

It’s a beautiful thing to see because the industry is flourishing at the moment. And there are a lot of great men doing a lot of good things in this space. And my colleague, Jack Jones is one of those people, and he is the person who really drew me towards the Banksia project. But a few steps back from getting into the Banksia project, I jumped out of the construction game.

I think I sort of went back to part time and I started to study a certificate for in fitness, which is to become a personal trainer. And I was working in the PT industry and had a number of clients and and what I soon found was the training was all good. The nutrition side was all good. But it was those conversations that really resonated with me and my clients and diving into things like how do you feel? And it’s not just, I’m good, how are you? It’s, I’m not doing too well today. Okay, so why aren’t you feeling well, what is going on? I see those follow up questions, digging deeper with my clients.

And what I soon found out is they were opening up to me in ways that they were surprised though they hadn’t. Had anyone asked that follow up question. They hadn’t anyone dig deeper. They hadn’t had anyone say, or hear them say I’m good and then say hold on, you don’t look good. You’re not training? Well, you something’s off what is actually going on. And that surprised them so much. And it resonated with me so much.

It was a catalyst for me to have those deeper conversations and to talk about mental health and, and reaching out and getting those referrals on to speaking to clinical professionals in the space. And that really sparked them another fire in me.

So as you as you stated in the intro, it was around this time as well that I discovered gut bacteria and gut health. And that’s what really triggered that mindset for me of wanting to get into the nutrition world or the dietician world. But I found out based on my background, I needed to go back into uni for an undergrad and then do another degree after the undergrad. I was just like, I want to do it faster. Dictation and so like impressed by your ability to go back and get stuck in and do it the correct way.

But it’s something that I wasn’t able to do but thankfully in a sense because I have fallen in love with mental health. And then from that fitness world I went into a certificate for mental health, like I mentioned before, and met Jack Jones and the kind of facilitator with the banks of project disilicate are is a volunteer who sits in to a peer group of about 10 people.

And we sort of facilitate a men’s group which sort of self reflects, talk vulnerably and openly and connects with each other and do a bit of education, we set plans for the future. But it’s just a group of guys who can get together without judgement, and speak and share and get things off our chest had those conversations that you wouldn’t usually have. And that’s, that’s where my mind was blown. I was like, wow, it is okay.

These people who are accepting of me and accepting of all these issues that I have, and sharing their issues, and making me realise, none of this should be taboo. None of this should be scary, or none of this should be anxiety provoking. It’s so normal, it’s so normal to struggle, it’s so normal to suffer and to go through hard times, and to one day be good and one day be bad. It’s so normal. And the problem with it is that we don’t talk about it.

And the problem with it is, people are so quick to save face, they’re so quick to want to show strength, and they’re so quick to want to have the photo on their social media and it gets the most likes without no blemishes, just a perfect image. And that’s not what we really are. My hair looks a bit silly, I’ve got grey hairs, my beards not not even, I’ve got a little bit too much fat in some areas, whatever it is, and that’s just talking about physical things, then then maybe I’m talking too much, maybe I’m stuttering, maybe I’m doing all that.

But that’s okay, because that’s who I am. That’s what makes me me. And that’s what makes us the individuals that beyond the individual, we are a collective, we are the human race, we are all one we are together. And that’s what the Danxia project does, that brings people together and allows us to make these connections with each other that you wouldn’t do in normal life.

With my group of men that I talk to once a month, I share things that I don’t even share with my best friend, I share things that I don’t share with my girlfriend, I get these things off my chest. And I think that these taboo weed things in my head, and as soon as they come out of my mouth, and as soon as I look around at the table, and I see people just accept it as that’s fine. It’s like, what we’re going to worry about what was getting me off site, why was I so concerned? And what was I thinking that was so negative in that space.

It just becomes normal, it just becomes this is okay, this is life. Life has its ups and downs, ebbs and flows, it’s valleys and its mountain. And, and that is lost. That is what we are and we’re all going through it and to pretend we’re not isn’t okay. That’s that’s what’s not okay, is to fake it to put on that mask every day and not be your true self not have those authentic connections, not being vulnerable. And it’s hard these days.

I am concerned about the next generation purely because of this social media world. Purely because yeah, there’s there’s just so much in face, there’s there’s so many, so many things that are built up in our society, which make us all want to be this this figure of perfection. And that’s not what we are. But I believe we can be together. And I think that’s that’s probably where where the the future holds is breaking down that individual.

It’s all about me, and taking it into it’s all about us. Together with we’re stronger together than we are alone. We’re smarter together, we’re always going to be better together. And I think that’s that’s probably, I don’t know, I’ve gone to a million tangents. But that’s sort of how I have arrived at the basic project. So I started volunteering, and I was a part of the group for about eight to 10 months before Jack Jones sort of recognised that I wasn’t only the facilitator and volunteer, I was trying to step up and do as much as I could I really wanted to learn and, and to experience as much as I could in this space and I was putting my hand up for all the extra curriculum, all the extra activities and and eventually, Jack recognised that and he brought me on to be his left side man and now we bounce ideas off each other.

I help him write grants, he helps me with my work as well. And then we just sort of have become this team and hopefully we can continue to go into the future and develop a a group of people who are obsessed about mental health and obsessed about improving The lives of others and obsessed with ensuring people don’t suffer the way we suffered and don’t make the mistakes we made.

Because if we’re making mistakes and not learning from them and not sharing that information, then others are going to be subjected to making those same mistakes. And that’s not what it should be about, we should be learning and progressing and building and growing.

And I think that’s what the banks your project is all about, is to share ideas to grow and to learn from each other and to, to educate ourselves and to become that up and to grow, grow, grow, we call them grow through and so it’s all about growth. Back to you, Anthony, sorry, Matt. Forever.

Anthony Hartcher 20:39
I’m sure the listeners can sense your passion for men’s mental health and, and that’s what comes across. So I really liked your your points around, accepting yourself as to who you are, what the, you know, those little things about you are unique to you, and really loving yourself for who you are what you do.

And then you know, with that self acceptance, you can, you know, then go out and be authentic about who you are. And then you have that real congruence about who you are. And being open and vulnerable. You know, so I really love that point that all those couple of points, and then that third point, which was around, you know, giving of oneself to, you know, help create a better society.

We can only do that by better, gelling together understanding one another, and really understanding what’s getting someone down in order to help pick them up. And so, you know, you brought up some terrific points, James, so thank you, I’m really keen to find out, because you’re so involved with men’s mental health, and obviously, you must hear some horrific stories and, and some challenges that other men are facing, how do you take care of yourself in relation to your men, your mental health, because, you know, as you said, at the start, it’s a continuum.

And, you know, everyone’s going to go through good days and bad days. So I really want to, for you to share with the listeners as to what you do to take care of yourself and your mental health.

James Younan 22:22
Amazing question. First and foremost, it’s connection. It’s, it’s that I’m not going through this alone, and I should never have to feel like I’m going through something alone.

Recognising that saying it out loud, and then acting on it. There’s three steps that are simple to say, but quite difficult to put into practice. And I think it’s even more difficult for a man for a male. So a lot of my childhood and teen years and going into my early 20s. And so may they they may, it’s my burden to bear it’s my cross to bear. It’s my, it’s my Atlas, I’m carrying the world on my shoulders.

No, I’m not. I’m definitely not. I’m just another number, another human, another person in this in this game. And I can tell you, first and foremost, that that moment that it clicked in my mind that it is okay to reach out when I’m not doing well. It was like a load off my shoulders. Freedom was just this freedom that I can be vulnerable, I can be weak and reaching out when I’m at those low points is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness, reaching out to get that support to strengthen up, I guess I can draw a parallel to the construction industry.

If the job sites not doing well, and it’s struggling, you don’t just go along and allow it to struggle. You reach out for those consultants who can bring in that information to help you and to build that project back up into a strong project that you can deliver to your clock. Just like yourself. If you’re allowing yourself to be in this negative space into this bad space, and you’re not reaching out to help, you’re just letting yourself go through it, then you’re going to stay there and you’re probably going to have a final product that’s not the greatest.

But if you’re reaching out and getting those consultants in most consultants, maybe a psychologist and maybe a GP, it might be a counsellor. Maybe your mate may be a mom, your dad, your brother, your sister, could be your footy match. It could be your jujitsu, ecolodge jujitsu. It’s something we should we haven’t talked about. It could be anybody could be Jack Jones, it could be James unit, it could be someone at the bank.

So project, just recognising that it’s okay to reach out and not to go through and suffer in silence. Big deal. And that was one of the biggest things for me and it’s something that I put into practice every day. I think the next one is to be honest with yourself. Often we lie and often men lie to themselves as well. Just like I was saying, I did I did before I will pretend that everything’s okay and just keep moving forward.

But I can tell you now but that’s a good good path. For a short time, and then eventually you’re going to lead yourself into an explosion of emotion and explosion of stress, may may leak into your physical health. And it’s not a good path to take. So being honest with how you’re feeling, not pushing your feelings down and disregarding them, building and allowing yourself to feel what you’re going through and to go through it. Life’s not always easy, sometimes it’s difficult. And that’s okay.

Going through those difficult times feeling those emotions going through what you’re going through, it’s a big part of healing, and you can’t not heal if you don’t heal them that that wound is going to be bleeding inside forever. And we’re talking about an emotional wound, a mental wound. If something has gone wrong, if someone close to you has has tried to take their own life, if you personally have gone through quite a traumatic incident, talking about it, and admitting that that is impacting your day to day life is very important.

And then again, going back to the connection, reaching out for that support, speaking to others about how you’re still professionals tease whoever it is, it’s just we need to do it, and we need to do more about it. And I guess in this space, I just wanted to say as well, if your GP is giving you bad information or information that you don’t want to hear, find another GP, you’re not married to the bloke or the woman find someone else.

Don’t settle for the first option. And that goes for counsellors that goes to psychologist, psychiatrist, whatever it is, we are in a world of surplus where there are so many options around if someone is listed as the number one doctor doesn’t mean they’re the number one doctor for you. And that’s okay.

So use your options. Look around look around, don’t settle for second best. And then I guess there’s certainly other things physical health, drinking water and sing the song and getting that bottom and be on a big believer in physical exhaustion and its mental health.

This is all related to mental health. I just wanted to relay that getting yourself into a space where where your body is just spent, you have burned all your energy is something beautiful about it with your mindset. You just feel free you feel like you can think easy on your ideas are clear on there’s so much more clarity.

It’s it’s something that I talk about a lot in my social feeds, that it’s like talking about Brazilian jujitsu if I have a Brazilian jujitsu clots where I am absolutely, like I can’t get enough oxygen in at the end of pop, I’m gassed, I’m so tired. It’s those moments where I feel most me It’s where all the information in my head starts to get processed correctly. It’s where that work meeting that I’ve been stressing about doesn’t have that same significance anymore.

It’s not a big deal because I I wish I could jump in and give you more reasons why it is but I don’t really know the science behind it. I just know for me, it is phenomenal. And it works and getting getting physical every day and something I try and do have my off days I don’t do it every day. But most days I’m getting into the gym getting out into the sun or even just doing my push ups and body squats in my bedroom. Whatever it takes to just get physical get the blood pumping. I spoke about gut health a little bit earlier. And I think that’s a big deal.

So I did a test with a group called biome which they check out what’s going on in your gut, and they give you a bit of feedback. And that was massive for me. So I learned a lot of things about my myself and all ScienceBase results and and found out I was eating some foods that probably weren’t great for me. But it is a space that I there is a lot of confusion for me and maybe something we can chat about a bit later on is about what is the right right diet to do this.

There’s so many mixed messages coming coming at us in the general population. People move on in that space about what is the best diet was the carnivore diet, the vegan plant based, there’s so many but to keep going breathwork reading, this is massive and it’s something that I learned to the VA jujitsu. So there’s a guy out there called Wim Hof. And if you haven’t heard about Wim Hof, give him a guru woman and watch some of his videos.

He’s a character, he’s hilarious. He had a bunch of Guinness World Records. But what he’s done is he’s he’s researched a lot of the ancient tribes and what they do with breathing and he’s gone all around the world and interviewed different different places and different people, different cultures and he’s come up with his own formula of breathing and breath work that breathing and being able to control your own body is something that so many people don’t do.

We have this vehicle, we have this, this, this machine that is in our control every day and we don’t control it, sometimes we let it control up. But getting your breath work down, I can put myself into these traps. Or I can put myself into these spaces where I’m seeing these visions and colours and these amazing feelings going through my body. And it’s just through breathing, and it’s quite phenomenal. But then going further than that, it says stress, if I’m feeling heightened anxiety, stopping and taking three deep breaths, which helps so simple, can completely change my mind train can completely change my energy can completely change my heart rate, and completely change everything that I’m going through.

So going back to breath, it’s something that I get triggered a thought in my head all the time when I’m struggling, it’s just breathe, breathing. So breath work is massive. I’m a big fan of clichés, I think, like everything in moderation, you are what you ate. I love that sort of saying so I do believe in none of us, I know. You would know better than anyone sugar is dangerous. Sugar should be viewed as, as any other drug out there that we all want our kids about, for whatever reason we feed our kids sugar.

I think that acknowledgement and learning for for the general population is important. And unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to come from the big conglomerates and, and big companies who are pushing those products. So it’s got to come from the grassroots up.

And then music dancing. Someone in the banks of project community share this unbelievable, saying and I won’t be able to say I’m saying that correctly. But he was just asking the question this from an ancient tribe, and when is the last time you dance? When is the last time you lost yourself to music. And that for me when I’ve had it at that time, I was going through a few weeks of quiet, low emotion.

And it resonated so strongly with me because I actually had to think back over those two weeks, and I hadn’t been listening to as much music. I hadn’t been allowing the music to flow through me. I know a lot of us put headphones in or listen to music, but we actually listening. So I like to say it’s like nobody’s watching another cliché thing to say that.

It’s something about being silly and just allowing yourself to be free and childish. That is so important. And we’ve lost it as adults. So I like to just whack on my favourite song like I’m a sucker for threading. So I listen to acquaint all the time.

But there’s so many other amazing artists out there and just allowing yourself to move to the music to be free to be silly to not feel that judgement of other people around you. And just being yourself and embrace life. It’s just way too fixated on the silly thing as a commercialised thing, so I’ll keep talking all day.

Anthony Hartcher 33:12
It was just reiterating exactly what you’re saying. It’s letting go and being yourself and being authentic. And, you know, dance. Music really does that to us, when we, as you say, dance like nobody’s watching, it’s what’s going on inside.

And then when we dance like nobody’s watching, we actually just showing the world how we’re feeling inside. And so it really is, it’s an expression of what’s going on inside. And it’s true, it’s, its ultimate freedom is when we’re expressing what’s inside to the rest of the world.

That goes back to your earlier points about, you know, you mentioned one of the most important things from mental health is that thing of connection. And being honest with yourself and not lying to yourself, not covering up, not putting that mask on, it’s letting go of that mask letting go of the façade, or the avatar that you’re trying to create on social media and just being you and expressing you.

So I really like how you know, everything you’re saying is really tying in with you know, your earlier points and just the things you’re sharing a very accessible to everyone out there. So everyone can turn on their favourite music and have it dance and have a seeing and, you know, people can go to breath at any time throughout the day.

It’s just simple connecting with breath and focusing on the breathing and, and, and noticing the breathing,that brings us into the present moments. So, you know, you mentioned food and exercise and I think,  that you’re looking for that scientific term around exhaustion and we call that I guess besides, behind it is sleep pressure.

So the more activity we do, we build up sleep pressure, and our body really wants to recuperate and rejuvenate in the evening, once it’s, you know, it’s been physically exhausted. And it’s something we don’t do much in our sedentary lifestyles.

And exercise is associated with neuroplasticity, which is allowing our mind to grow and increase connectivity throughout the mind. Hence that thing of you mentioned around exercise and feeling clearer and sharper. And clearing the mind. You know, exercise absolutely does that I loved how you tie that in with martial arts, for you, it’s the Brazilian Jujitsu, and congratulations, you recently achieved your purple belt.

James Younan 35:58
I did. It’s such a big deal.

Anthony Hartcher 36:02
It’s amazing. I feel like I’m not worthy. Well, you know, 2015, you know, you started that journey. And you’ve been, as you said, just working away at it, and putting in time and attention and dedication. And this is recognition, your purple belt for that hard effort that you’ve put in and you did raise earlier that you wanted to talk about that as and I think you’ve mentioned that.

Certainly when you go there, and you physically exert yourself, you feel so much better for that exertion and putting something in and again, it’s a way of releasing frustrations, isn’t it? When we go to physical activity? We can most definitely,

James Younan 36:45
Yeah, so something for me. So I from a very young age, from five years old, until about 2526 years old, I played rugby. And rugby is a very physical game. So that physical contact, for me was something that was a way for me to pour out that extra energy to pour out that frustration. And it was something that I didn’t even recognise at the time, but it was an outlet for me to get get rid of a lot of that stuff that I was throwing behind them.

What I found out through injuries, and through offseason and things like that, that’s where my mental health would fail and start to break down. And, and it wasn’t until later on looking back that I recognise, okay, that that probably was that link. So again, going back to saying keeping physical is a big part of it may stay mentally sound.

But beyond that, I think there are a lot of other things. And I’m not sure if the science is there yet, but I’ll just speak from my personal viewpoint, the physical connection, touching somebody I know that sounds weird, touching a person. And even if it’s in a valid way, it’s not so violent, because after we’d have we shake hands, we talk to each other, we’d be silly, and we grab each other and throwing each other.

There is the bottom side of it. But beyond that, there’s a lot of camaraderie and a lot of mate shifts. And that physical touch is something that I know a lot of people aren’t getting enough of these days, especially with COVID. And there’s something to that, for me personally, that just makes me feel better. The connection with all the people around you people in the same mindset, there’s the desire to do better just to strive to improve, to educate yourself to worry about the other sets of facets of your life.

If you’re too stressed coming into a jujitsu class you might not perform as well. So you start to think about and reflect on why am I so stressed? How can I avoid that stress? I can do better at jujitsu, other things like your nutrition, your sleep, sleep I didn’t talk about before that sleep is absolutely massive.

So all these things, because I value jujitsu, I value my time on the match. I want to be better and I want to improve. But there are all these other facets of the sport, which I really do believe improved my personal mental health and from what I understand the others around me have a similar experience.

Anthony Hartcher 39:11
Yeah, it’s it’s that I mean, every session, you’re focusing on that incremental improvement. So there’s that element of growth that you mentioned at the start of the talk that’s so important. For us as humans, you know, we need to experience us with you know, living a life of purpose.

And I think, you know, that incremental improvement makes us feel like we’re moving towards something where, you know, we’re accomplishing something and it’s, you know, even though it may be small, it’s still that feeling of growth and accomplishment and that earlier point you just brought up in relation to connection.

It’s, it releases oxytocin, and oxytocin makes us feel connected. And that’s, you know, what, and back to your very first point about, we need to connect more, we need to interact more, we need to Share what’s going on, you know that that thing of physical connection releases that hormone of oxytocin, that makes us want to be more connected.

And we feel a part of something, as opposed to feeling isolated. And being social beings, we need to feel part of something. And I think that’s what your Brazilian jujitsu does, it’s a community of like minded people that are all going there to, you know, improve themselves. And you know, in order, as you said, in order to improve yourself, you need to be in that present moment.

You’ve all got your own ways to find that present moment, and so that you’re not stressed. And so that you can think clearly, and so you can be creative in terms of getting yourself out of certain positions. So I’m glad you brought that up, because I think it’s a critical part of mental health is to have, you know, something in your life that improving you day by day, and you’re feeling you’re making progress, and you’re growing.

And it’s, as you said, it’s that safe space that you go to, and, you know, if you’re feeling down, that community will lift you up, and that, that the sport itself will also clear your mind and help bring you out of that, as you said, it’s a continuum of ups and downs, you know, if you go there feeling down, it brings you back up. So it’s, it’s great that you always have that consistency of that safe space to go to, like you do when you run the growth rooms.

James Younan 41:33
Definitely. And to bring the parallel to the growth room is a part of every session, the way we ended is to make ourselves accountable to the group in ways we are going to grow and progress in our future.

So the beginning of the session begins with something that we call the wheel of life, which is a reflection on different elements of our life. So we talk about our physical health, our mental health, our family time, now, maybe our religious connections, or our spiritual side, and all these different elements, we start to break them down into smaller sort of bite sized pieces that we can reflect on in a bit more depth than you would in your day to day life.

And what you usually find is that something is really doing well, something else might not be doing as well. And you sort of lose sight of that because you are enjoying certain aspects of your life. And it’s only until you do a reflection exercise where you really focus down onto what is going on for me that you find these pieces that you need to improve.

I know for me, for example, if I really get stuck into my physical health and go into jujitsu class every night, and on weekends, and all that sort of stuff, I might lose sight of my family time. And then it’s not, it’s like, okay, I actually didn’t recognise what I was losing sight and not connected with my family as much, I’m going to make a promise to myself and say it out loud to the group, this is how I’m going to try and work forward in the next month, to improve myself and to make myself feel good. Because I know when I’m connected with my family, I’m happier.

And I do better in my day to day life. So just being accountable to not only yourself, but to a group of people. And it’s not like if you don’t do it, they’re gonna hound you and be angry at you and swear at you. But it might be okay, that’s okay that you didn’t do it this month. But let’s try and do it this month. And then you might get a text message from them saying, how do you do with, with with chatting to the family? Or how did you do with trying to get into the gym or whatever it is, and, and it just lifts, lifts your spirits and makes you feel like you’re not in this alone, that you have these other people that you can lean on and people that have your back, and they’re there to support you.

Then it’s just a real positive space. And, yeah, it’s really interesting that there are so many parallels between jiujitsu and the eight growth rooms. I like both, and I’m never going to give either back in forever,

Anthony Hartcher 43:52
It’s really supporting your mental health. So kick, keep it up. And, you know, I really like those, you know, points you raised, and particularly that point around balance.

Like, as you said, you know, we can focus too much on one area of our life. And then there’s other areas of importance that are neglected. And, you know, in order for good mental health, we need to have that real, balanced focus. And it’s, as you said, it’s a continuum. It’s work in progress, it’s something we need to work out. But the great thing about the Banksia is that it brings attention to it, and then allow allows you to come up with the solution as to what you’re going to do to address that.

So, and it really ties in nicely with everything you’ve raised today is you know, you’ve raised the importance of you know, physical activity, you know, for mental health, you know, it’s multifaceted. So physical activity, there’s nutrition, there’s connection, you know, there’s you know, presence, you know, being you know, it your areas of mindfulness, you know whether it be going to breath, going to dance going to music, you know, so you’ve brought up so many of these key areas that are essential for good mental health.

And you tie it all in together by assessing yourself as as to how you’re going in those areas and where you’re putting your energies and where, where’s lacking and what, what area?

Do you need to put more energy and what activity you’re going to do to make that happen? So, thanks. So um, thanks, James, for sharing that, that tip of around balance and, you know, keeping, keeping that focus on making sure your life is in balance, because you know, if it’s not, that’s where you’re going to, things are going to become unstuck, essentially.

James Younan 45:48
If there’s radio solid, I’d love to ask you a question. And it’s something that I raised before, but it’s in the nutrition states, and its around the general population, people like me, who are so fixated on other aspects of my life and don’t have the time to really get stuck in but how do you know where the right places to go for nutrition?

Like, how do you know what the new latest craze is? Correct? And what the latest science that gets popped up on your social media feed is correct. Where do you have a place where you can go and factcheck? Or do you have a place where you can sort of tell us to help us? Or is it something like seeking clinical help from somebody like yourself, Is that the best pathway?

Anthony Hartcher 46:30
Ultimately, it is, like you mentioned before, earlier around the psychologists, you know, the experts that have a qualification that, uh, you know, understand the science, and it’s all evidence based, you know, the psychologists will do that for mental health counsellors. in nutrition, it’s, you know, the nutritionists and the dietitians.

There’s all these, you know, there’s credible websites to go to, and you know, that they’re your government ones, or ones, you know, the commercial ones are obviously, you know, ones are more, you know, they’re either pushing an agenda. And I think it’s a good point that you raised James, because things like game changes, they, they just take, it’s not a two sided, looking at both sides of the coin documentary, it’s a pure one sided selling a, you know, a pathway to viewers and, and they just get all the supportive evidence around what they want to sell to the audience.

It attracted a lot of attention. You know, and there’s, there’s credible aspects of it, but it doesn’t present both sides fairly. And I think that adds to the confusion of what’s out there in terms of people just thinking, Well, you know, it’s, it’s all intermittent fasting, or that’s the, that’s the game changing thing, or it’s, you know, veganism, or it’s you know, vegetarianism.

To answer it, you know, for the listeners, it really comes back to balance, like you mentioned, with mental health, you know, nutrition is, it’s multifaceted in terms of, you know, what’s going to work for you may not work for someone else, you know, there’s mental health will affect your nutritional choices.

So if you’re not in the right headspace, then you won’t make the best choices, you know, if you’re more stressed, you’re going to go towards more those comfort foods, and they’re probably not, they’re not going to serve you. So it and it’s not so called dieting, it’s really coming up with a well balanced diet that works for you.

As you said earlier, you know, you had your, your gut tested, you know, and the microbiome was, you know, examined for you and, and you got a picture as to you know, how you can better balance the microbiome to support your mental health to support your physical health and, and that microbiome is completely unique to the individual, like genetics.

So there, there’s not really a one size fits all when it comes to nutrition. It’s needs to be individual, it needs to be coming from a credible source. And he’s to take that Balanced View. And, yeah, so they’re probably the the key areas around nutrition. They’re important for the individual. You know, and it’s very hard to be specific because everyone’s different.

James Younan 49:44
But That’s unreal, because that draws parallel going back into the mental health space with with sort of your own sort of things that you’re going through that just because somebody else has got the exact same symptoms of view and is going through almost an identical situation. pathways to better to better yourself into to find that wellness may not be the same. And it is it is very individual and it can vary. So and that’s absolutely okay. And I’m sure that’s a similar message you give to your clients.

Anthony Hartcher 50:15
But absolutely, and it’s tailoring it to them, their, you know, their genetics, their microbiome, their the lifestyle that they want to live, because, you know, everyone aspires for something different, you know, in terms of what they connect with around their purpose, it’s completely individualised, you know, and not everyone’s living the same purpose.

So, and that’s hence, why the, you know, I guess their, their pathway to supporting them. And again, to continue on health, you know, health, mental health. Nutrition is a continuum, you know, it’s not a, you know, straightforward, linear journey, you know, that there’ll be a sort of ups and downs. And, yeah, so there’s lots of parallels to draw between mental health and nutrition. You know, it’s life.

James, I really appreciate the you putting aside the time to coming on the show and, and sharing with the listeners as to, you know, your expertise around mental health, what’s worked for you, you know, what the bank’s your projects all about, and how it can support others. And there’s going to be listeners out there that have really connected with what you’ve had to say today. And so I really wanted to ask you as to how listeners can best connect with you and how they can best connect with the The Banksia Project?

James Younan 51:46
But definitely, yeah, so me personally, I’m on socials. But it’s not not too exciting on there. So The Banksia Project probably is a better place to go. And they’re on Facebook, they’re on Instagram, they’re on LinkedIn, or other social platforms.

But our website is And once you’re on that website, there’s so much information. If you’re interested in becoming part of the growth, firm, middle registration, I’m going to press and just register as a as a participant, and either myself or Jack will get in contact with you.

And we’ll get you into one of those growth rooms as soon as possible. And just to jump in again, and just relay what we’re all about. So we’re all about that early intervention into mental health, where we’re trying to get people to talk about it, to be a part of a community where it is okay to have these discussions and to be vulnerable and to be open and to make these connections.

Prior to getting down into that diagnosis or getting down into that acute stage where everything is falling down around. You really want people to be proactive, get involved, really look after themselves, just like you would go to the gym or you’d go and ensure that you’re not eating too many bad foods, you really need to look out for your mental health.

And this is one way which which will give you a lot of other tools and tips into the other aspects of your life as well. And of course, we have clinical supervision for all of all the things we do so anyone ever has an issue or that there’s there’s something that that’s triggering for them personally, we can refer them on to a clinical professional, either a psychologist, psychiatrist, or get them into to see a GP, whatever it is at the time, or maybe it is to get them into the emergency services immediately.

So we have that training, we had those people on standby. And all of our programmes as well have been designed by mental health professionals. So everything’s in line, it’s just about getting the right people involved and connecting and to be to be open and to not be scared of this space. Because it is it’s where the future is leading us.

There’s so many organisations in this space now we’re just one of them. But we really think and we all the data that we’re getting back and showing that if you’re looking to improve that quality of life, if you’re looking to feel happiness and to connect with others around you than something like the banks or projects growtherm programme is perfect for that.

But I do do say to everyone, just if it’s not asked, just connect with somebody, just just don’t suffer alone, don’t suffer in silence. There’s so many great people out there who are ready to talk to you are ready to listen and to listen and listen without judgement. And and then the people you need to connect with.

Get rid of all those negative people who are going to judge you get rid of all those negative people who are going to pull you down and slow you down in progressing in your life. You don’t need them. You need people like me, you need people like Anthony around you who are just going to lift you up and make you into a better person.

So the banks are project we say connect, support and thrive. The banks are I’m James have been so happy to be here I believe. Thank you so much for having me.

Anthony Hartcher 54:55
You’re welcome, James and thanks so much for sharing all those wise words and Yeah, I thoroughly recommend our listeners and viewers to look up the Banksia project. It’s a fantastic organisation. It’s done great things for me personally, for the men that I’ve supported within the rooms, and they do great things for the community in terms of creating that awareness and education.

So get behind the banks for your projects, look them up and connect with them. They’ll really help loved ones people, you know, that really need the support and they’re looking for, you know, if they’re looking for their community to really help their mental health and to help them through those challenging times.

The banks, your projects are a great starting point. So thanks, James. Thanks to the Banksia project. And listeners and viewers if you’ve enjoyed the episode, stay tuned. There’s more to come for November. So we’ll do a lot more on men’s mental health and men’s health. So thanks for listening. Bye for now.

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