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Shakti perspectives: Matthew Craig

I think there's a variety of reasons why South Asian and multicultural men struggle to have conversations around mental health. Definitely something in my family. I don't think I had a proper conversation about the state of my mental health or things like that and vulnerability with my dad whose Sri Lankan until I was mid-twenties. I think it comes from a few different things.


I definitely think one comes from that old patriarchal thing of you know, the man being the head of the house and being the provider and being quite stoic. I think it also comes from especially in the diaspora context and this goes for all sorts of multicultural men, I think particularly like our priorities are our parents or grandparents. Priorities were always about providing. It was always about stability and about I guess wealth accumulation or building financial security for the family. There wasn't really space to do that, to have those conversations, it was always just about how to work harder. I think it's got a lot to do with priorities and now because our parents to and grandparents, you know, probably to an extent they put aside their emotional needs and prioritized economic needs, so we have a better platform than they did. Now we're allowed the space to be able to do that. I think it sucks but it's also a double-edged sword because the fact that they did struggle and put that to the side has probably helped us have the space to open up.


My relationship with music has definitely helped my mental health. The short but very confronting truth is I probably would have killed myself if it wasn't for music. At my most vulnerable, loneliest times I can reflect on how music helped be a conduit as a lifeline helped me find comfort, particularly the artistry of Kid Cudi who is my favourite artist of all time. He’s commentary on loneliness, on not fitting in, on substance abuse, on suicidal ideation and, and depression. That definitely saved me. I think for sure, as an art form, it's a great release. It's like a diary and it can feel like a companion when you might not have one in a physical sense. But then the pursuit of the music industry is fraught with mental health challenges when you step into it in that sort of context. But as an art form itself, it's a lifeline.


There's a lot of things that will support mental health conversation and not everything will work for everyone, but I definitely think normalization is the most important thing. What I mean by that is just exhibiting vulnerable behaviour which encourages other people to do the same. It takes some bravery to be the first one to do it by just normalizing it and it's definitely something that now as I've got older has become more normalized in my circles. Like we have honest conversations about where our mental health is at. But I think that the ego and the need to sort of prove to fit in socially might, well definitely inhibited that when I was younger. I do think we live in a different time and context now where the conversations are more open. Role modelling the right behaviour and group dynamics can often be hard one on one.  I remember when I was younger, I put a football team together when I was involved in church. I put a team together of some guys from off the streets and whatever, we used AFL footy as a vehicle to be able to have tough conversation. I think just finding opportunities to bring people together and create space for conversations is half the battle.


I've definitely experienced poor mental health. And still do. I don't think it's something you can overcome. I think it's something that you can learn the skills and the techniques to implement, to ensure your well-being. It's probably no different to physical health ie if you eat a lot of junk food and don't train, you're going to get fat. By the same token, if you're not investing in the right things in your mental health, then you're not going to do well in that lens. Definitely one thing that helped me was therapy. I went to Headspace when I was in my early mid-twenties. And that was my first opportunity to have those conversations. I think that's something that should again be normalized. The same way you go to a personal trainer for your physical health, go to a psychologist or a counsellor for your mental health. I think that's really important. Family support systems, mates and yeah, I believe music is therapy. all things that have definitely helped me.


Self-care was not something that I ever understood until it was probably too late. It was never too late, but until then it was a pretty long way down the line where I was burnt out. On the verge of breakdown, both through work and I think just taking other things on board and not having a process to handle them or deal with them. So now I have very strict routines for my own self-care.


I make sure I work out, do some physical exercise at the gym or whatever every single day. I've got a morning routine where I stretch, where I have a journal where I practice gratitude. Gratitude is the number one thing for my mental health challenges. I take cold showers in the morning. They are all things that really help me. Eating better is definitely an important one of limiting or being selective about what substances or alcohol or foods or anything that I put in my body.

Just understanding what effect that will have on me and then the final one that's really helped me is seeing a doctor and having a dog that I got about six months ago. The ability to care for someone who is not necessarily human, but to care for another being and have undying love, attention care coming back from them. That gratitude that dogs have being your best friend.That's definitely one thing.


Animals are huge for me and getting out in nature, I get out in the sun every day. I do my morning gratitude’s while sitting in the backyard on the trees. Getting into nature and getting connected with your humanity and away from the screen is super important. Breathwork..breathwork is what changed my life when I first learned how to breathe and deal with panic attacks, I even just wrote out a list when I was going through some serious mental health challenges just under 12 months ago, I wrote out a list and put it on my wall and it was just a list of affirmations or reminders to myself that I can look at every day even when I'm in my lowest and that can help steer me back on track. 

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