After experiencing a severe occupational burnout in a senior leadership role, John experienced depression, anxiety and suicidality. For some time, unable to work, John became a stay-at-home dad, only to realise that rest alone was not going to be the answer to these complex disorders. He began picking tomatoes at a local producer and repairing electric fences on a dairy farm, discovering that these jobs whilst restful for the mind, forced him out of bed, engaged in physical activity and helped prevent the mind from negative thought patterns.
Whilst engaged in clinical treatment, he discovered that psychology and medication alone was not the answer; recovery involved re-evaluating one’s lifestyle. John experimented with social engagement via the local men’s shed, sporting teams and a fly fishing club. He increased fitness playing division two soccer, lifting weights, cycling and parkrun. Increasing sleep and reducing alcohol consumption played an important role as did eating healthy whole foods for gut health.
Hobbies such as fly fishing and fly tying, bushwalking, woodworking and knife making became vehicles for engagement with the outdoors, and mindful creative pursuits which regulated the activation of the nervous system.
Addressing a performance mentality and reconnecting with values around family, relationships, health and nature was also fundamental to recovery, resulting in backpacking with his family around Borneo, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. A life-threatening bushwalking injury that involved air evacuation with the Westpac Helicopter inspired John to join the SES search and rescue team reinforcing that volunteering also enhances wellbeing.
John commenced working in the mental health sector in 2010 first with Anglicare in their family mental health support service for five years, then followed by another eight years in a state-wide suicide prevention organisation. He quickly discovered that sharing his lived experience meant that people experiencing these conditions would feel safe to share their own challenges which lead to effective peer support and many attributed their own survival and recovery to John’s interventions.
During John’s career in mental health, he has trained in Trauma Informed practice, become a Master Mental Health First Aid Instructor, is a trained beyondblue public speaker and has completed a Cert IV Mental Health Peer Work. He is an experienced senior peer support worker and trainer developing his own programs to support businesses to educate their workforce about mental health and wellbeing. In the last few years John has been training leaders at all levels from General Managers in large organisations to crew leaders and leading hands on how to support staff with mental health problems. He is passionate about preventing and treating occupational burnout and supporting those who are affected, often providing one to one support.
John was a finalist for a life award from the Tasmanian Suicide Prevention Network and finalist for the Australian Men’s Health Network best speaker award. He has spoken at numerous conferences and provided training to organisations such as Rio Tinto where he pioneered their award-winning peer support program, Cement Australia, Dairy Tas, Aurora, TasNetworks, MMG, Bluestone Joint Tin Venture, Simplot, VicWater, Launceston Council, West Coast Council, and Mental Health Council of Tasmania.