Phuong’s exploration into Mental Health & belonging.
Welcome. This is a story about my mental health journey and my connection with those around me. I invite you to come with me as I explore themes and draw connections between Mental Health, community and belonging.
As a collaborator in ‘Mind Grown’ - a diverse collective of driven Young Initiators who seek to foster awareness with future leaders of Casey - I will be researching debate topics, organising and implementing events in relation to mental health. Before achieving these goals, I would like to share my personal struggles and growth in this area.
I have always been captivated by the idea of maintaining positive emotional wellbeing. From my experiences, it is hard to be productive and meaningful without prioritising mental health. I also find Mental wellbeing can be so easily overlooked in this hectic, fast-paced century.
I honestly would not know how to describe myself as an adolescent. Although I did a lot, such as after-school piano and academic sessions, I didn’t feel much connection beyond what was in front of me. By constantly getting myself involved in various clubs and activities, I began to think I could further explore my identity and perhaps positively contribute to my community. I began to question how I could grow stronger with those around me.
I moved through five schools between the start of Primary School to the end of High School. During these transitions, it was a challenge to maintain close friendships and adapt to new environments. I distinctly remember Year 8 camp as a disheartening experience and I constantly felt the pressure to conform. I felt unable to relate to others and didn’t even know how to start. My confidence and self-esteem felt really low.
I began making a few small changes. Instead of focusing on personal growth and building meaningful relationships, I lived day-by-day for short-term pleasures: food, stories, movies, books, and music. I connected to the arts and felt happy when immersed in my own universe, not paying much attention to my surroundings.
I then reached a point where I needed to dig deeper. Having the same monotonous routine while seeing others grow urged me to change my perspectives and actions. Realising I have the freedom to explore not only my own self - but the things, places, people, and ideas around me gradually helped my mental wellbeing and quality of life. This was the beginning of me connecting with my community.
I Began Growing
I started putting more academic effort and discovered my interests in literature and the arts. I read more nonfiction and self-help books for creative inspiration and self-development. I talked to new peers in school and built connections with people who had similar values and interests as I did. By engaging with different activities and people, I felt a deeper sense of belonging and a higher sense of awareness. I also found that it was exciting to engage more with those around me - the world didn’t seem as daunting as I initially thought.
I met Katie, a very close friend, in Year 10. She has seen me at my best and at my worst. She understands my imperfections more than anyone else. Something I notice about Katie, is that she never tells me to do anything, but always asks open-ended questions, allowing reflection and room to dissect something in a nurturing way. She has been always been there for me, and is patient, creative and courageous. I learn so many inspiring things when I spend time with her and our connection helps bring out my own reflective and curious self, which plays a big part in my personal growth and emotional recovery.
I learnt to be patient with time and people. Surprises came along my way.
Another building block for my personal growth was laid down by a philosophical book called ‘A New Earth’ by Eckhart Tolle. It supports the notion of ego de-attachment and how it may be the guide to individual happiness, growth, and conflict resolutions. By being non-attached to our egos, we could be more aware of the world around us. When I am more conscious of events, places and others around me - I feel more selfless and purposeful.
Valuing mental wellbeing extended when I read ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ by Matt Haig. Matt guides readers through his long experience of depression and recovery. Matt wrote about mental health in the most painful and honest way. He emphasised hope and patience for anyone who sees no miracle in their lives. Although I have never experienced depression, I relate to Matt’s perspectives on the perks of living – love, literature, and arts. The book made me reflect on how I can help others with their mental health and personal development.
“I am you and you are me. We are alone, but not alone. We are trapped by time, but also infinite. Made of flesh, but also stars.”
― Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive
Where am I now?
I really want to help people with their mental wellbeing and growth. These values can be reflected in my recent counselling internship and current studies in Psychology. I also try to help others by volunteering in different communities. My recent participation in The Young Initiators Workshop, motivated me to act on personal values and community issues. I feel driven and part of the world.
A couple of takeaway messages echoing in my mind:
It is okay not to feel happy all the time. You are taking care of yourself when you try to understand why you think and feel a certain way
Channel your inner rock-star. Work on your strengths, interests, hobbies, and goals. It may build your self-esteem and confidence and influence your positive wellbeing.
Explore people, places, things, and ideas around you. You will be fascinated with what you can learn and feel.
I’ll be continuing on this exploration through this blog and ‘Mind Grown’ (check out a recent interview with one of my teammates on that, here.)
Keep journeying and I look forward to discovering more and sharing with you.