Saddle Up For Life
How 'Saddle Up For Life' came to be.....
Through Dakota's Eyes.
Everything has a beginning, how it ends depends on the choices we make. But sometimes its the manner in which a situation is managed by others that will determine your future and if not managed effectively can inflict unnecessary damage.
As I sit here and think back, it all started when I found the courage to raise my hand and ask the company I was employed by for help. "Work related" were the words I used, the silence and isolation which followed was soul destroying, a feeling I will never forget and still struggle to come to terms with. After 20 years of loyal and dedicated service, knowing that this kind of culture was still prevalent in this day and age both surprised and disappointed me. It was now impacting me.
You see, I ride for the brand, dedicated to the business in ensuring that we do the job right, owning what we do, always learning and striving to do better. This is what I believe makes an organisation succeed and is what our customers expect.
It was the realisation that there would be no help, only further silence & isolation, a culture of reinforced stigma around mental health and the feeling I did not matter which gave rise to do something about it.
The knowledge that others within my workplace found solace in reaching out to me and sharing their own journeys and experiences made me realise that the issue was greater than myself. It was obvious that our employer could not provide the positive and proactive support that was required to give the best opportunity to recover and return to work. What could we do to help our business improve what they do?
Riding my horse Coda has always provided me the conduit to maintain my mental health so it was only fitting that it was by the saddle that we would begin this journey. A journey to help raise awareness around mental health within the workplace, suicide prevention and begin conversations on how we can all do better to support people during their journey to recovery.
What people do not realise is the experience of attempting to return to work has been more damaging than the original cause, a fact that further cemented my resolve in wanting to ensure that no one else go through this experience and so would advocate for change within the workplace.
'Saddle Up For Life' has helped give me purpose, something that I had lost during my extremely long absence from my workplace. However it has also demonstrated the strength and commitment of those around me, for if it was not for my family, friends and people met along the way then we could never have achieved what this campaign has to date.
Knowing that others care and that we have provided a voice for others who are struggling has given me strength to keep moving forward. It is true that together we can make a difference, it is also true that together we have made a difference......
Through Tahnee's Eyes.
Watching someone you love feel like they have no purpose even though they have incredible passion and drive to achieve, watching them feel alone and completely isolated even though you are right there beside them every step of the way is excruciating. Watching them day-by-day loosing hope, not understanding why this is happening, falling deeper and deeper into the black hole and there is nothing you can say or do that will help as it is all outside your realm of control.
Witnessing all this had me feeling complete despair, frustration and anger because I really thought the world was a better place.
It had become very clear that despite the illusions, there is no support in the workplace for those who put their hand up and found the courage to admit they are struggling, really struggling. Even more so when the root cause is work related. It also appears that there are no tools or support for those leaders who are meant to be there to support those people. The stigma everyone talks about breaking down - is just cemented even deeper because of the lack of communication, systems and care.
We knew something needed to be done because the farce could not continue. Not everyone is as lucky as I am to be surrounded by such an amazing group of people and an incredible boss, who’s natural flow is to care about others and is not afraid to have those difficult conversations and be open, honest and actually talk about it – I am definitely one of the lucky ones.
We knew we would be going on a ride of some description this year. That was inevitable. We both needed that peace, time and space to just be. Originally, we had planned to take a trip with the horses to Flinders Island but circumstances meant that couldn’t happen, but in the end that has turned out to be perfect.
Conversations happened and our vision to raise funds for SPEAK UP! Stay ChatTY became ‘Saddle Up For Life’. We chose SPEAK UP! Stay ChatTY because their values aligned with ours and they were local. We had no idea how we would raise these funds but like I said, when you have the drive and passion that this man does, incredible things can happen. We threw around ideas, had many conversations and just started at the beginning.
Saddle Up For Life grew with every conversation we had. The more we talked to others, the more disturbing stories we heard about other peoples journeys - in other workplaces as well as our own, in all types of fields, industries and demographics – and how vital it was that attention be brought to this topic. We had great conversations, have made some amazing friends but it was clear – everyone is either affected or knows someone who has been affected by Mental Illness and the workplace is such a huge piece of the puzzle, we just need to piece it all together so that we can put our hand on our heart and know that we are doing ALL that we can to support those people on their journey to recovery.
It shouldn’t be this hard.
But Saddle Up For Life has given him back that purpose. To see him passionate about something again is absolutely worth all those sleepless nights organising, planning and learning a whole new world of social media. Even putting yourself completely outside your comfort zone and getting in front of a camera – as much as I hate it I would do it all again to support this cause and to keep the conversations moving around what we can all do better to support those on their journey to recovery. I have first hand witnessed the damage that can be done (that can never be undone) and continues to occur when supporting systems are not in place. We know we need to continue to challenge until changes are made and people can feel safe to ask for help.
Together we can make a difference.
'It is through a simple act of kindness, and with the knowledge someone else cares, that can make all the difference.'