A born and bred Gold Coaster, Casey Lyons, along with his mate Sam Webb, founded locally based not-for-profit company LIVIN after losing their best friend to suicide. Together the pair have changed the way many Australians understand mental health.
We spoke with Casey on the importance of raising mental health awareness how we locals can look after each other and help LIVIN create change.
How long have lived on the Gold Coast?
29 years, I grew up in Mudgeeraba and Burleigh so I’m pretty lucky.
What’s your favourite thing about calling the Coast home?
Probably the laidback vibe. We’re lucky to be blessed with beautiful beaches but we’ve also got an amazing hinterland not too far either, it’s the best of both worlds. I start every day with a morning walk along the creek and up to the beach, that’s another thing I love, being able to start my day off on such a positive note.
Tell me how LIVIN came about?
LIVIN started in 2013 in the most tragic of circumstances when my best friend Dwayne Lally took his life. Dwayne lived with depression and bipolar for a number of years and the stigma kept him quiet. He was a tough, loving and very outgoing character but there was a battle that lived inside him that he didn’t know how to articulate. After losing him we were confronted by the shocking statistics that surround mental health and suicide in this country and we wanted to turn that negative into a positive. We didn’t want his death to be in vain.
What does it take to put together a not-for-profit?
We didn’t really know what to do but we were lucky that we had a lot of good people around us who helped us to get to where we are now. We had Minter Ellison Law Firm at Varsity Lakes reach out to us for a community fund raiser and then offer to do pro bono work for us and they helped set us up as a not-for-profit charity. Without them, this journey would have been very hard, expensive and confusing but they made it a hell of a lot easier.
Did you expect it to have such an impact?
When anyone starts anything, I suppose they always have dreams of wanting it to be as big as possible but we never imagined it would get this big this quickly. The fact that it grew so much kind of represents the problem we’re facing in society. One in five people suffer from some form of mental illness and suicide is the leading cause of death between the ages of 15 and 44 so chances are someone you know has been affected by this tragedy.
What are LIVIN’s main ways of raising awareness?
We’ve got our merchandise, which started out as a by-product and a way for us to create an identity. It was also a way to raise money without asking people to donate and give nothing in return. The merchandise started as a fundraiser but so many beautiful things have happened off the back of that. There’s a group of people who understand each other, if someone sees a person wearing a LIVIN shirt, they get that head nod or a wave, it’s just a great conversation starter. We do a lot of community based events from 24-hour runs to bands playing gigs for us, local fundraisers, you name it, we’ve probably done it. Our most important aspect is our education program. It goes to schools, businesses, sporting clubs, anywhere in the wider community, and teaches about warning signs and symptoms, where to go for help, that sort of thing. It also teaches evidence-based research and educating people so they know how to help themselves and others.
Why is it so important for people to speak about mental health?
The more comfortable we can be with having these conversations, the more chance there is that people will open up to each other and get professional help. It’s imperative we all start talking so we can create a culture of understanding and change the way people see mental health.
Father’s Day is this weekend, while it’s a celebration for many families, it can also be a difficult time, what advice do you have for anyone who might be struggling?
Definitely. Take the time out to do something that will make you happy, or at least feel a little bit better. By that I mean give yourself permission to be selfish. On the flip side, if you know someone is struggling, please reach out to them, ask how they’re doing and listen to what they have to say. Listening is vital. If you are suffering please remember you’re not alone, reach out and ask for help, there is someone out there who will listen.
How can we help with LIVIN’s mission?
Jump on our website, all our information is on there. There’s plenty about where to get help, warning signs, etc. There’s a volunteer section and ways to get us out to your school or community group.
What’s in the works in the future for you guys?
We’re always on a mission to make LIVIN the best it can possibly be. At the moment we’ve got a pilot program in a school in Townsville and hopefully once we get the information we need, we’ll look at taking that Australia-wide.
What’s the best piece of life advice you’ve ever received?
Treat other people how you’d like to be treated.
Being a local, we have to ask your favourites…
Café: Burleigh Social Brew
Restaurant: Easy Street Diner, Julie’s Woodfired Kitchen on Tallebudgera Connection Road – the food is amazing and third, Tom Ugly’s – good pizza.
Weekend hang: Tallebudgera Creek