More people around the world own a mobile phone than a toothbrush ( yeah, I really wish I was joking).. and the billions of us lucky enough to have both, spend waaayyy more time online than on our dental health anyway. It’s estimated that each of us will spend around 105 days online this year, 40 of those just on our socials. Online is how and where we connect, disconnect, have face time with friends, scruff up some grind, work, learn, play, plan, shop, search, discover, game, laugh, cry, feel, binge ( and chill if we’re lucky), feed passions, join communities, find belonging, trade being present for distraction, be present in unmissable moments – no matter where we are, escape from loneliness… or feed it, seek motivation, feel inspiration, feed identity… and isolation.. and live almost as wholly as we do offline.
The magic, science and convenience our ever-evolving tech provides has us more connected to each other, our lives and the world around us than we’ve ever been, but it also has us more disconnected from all of them than ever.
The power, impact and importance of connection, whether it’s with each other, our broader community, our environment (physical, political or personal), the wifi, or simply (but most importantly) ourselves might not be something you’ve thought much about, but of the many things growing up in the wild mess of a drug dealing, heroin addicted, single parent lifestyle was, it wasn’t an environment for connection. I’ve given its power and impact a lifetime of thought, because as a kid, feeling disconnection from everything around me was my only safe space…
Feeling truly connected to ourselves and our own life fuels our self image and energy; connection with others sparks our sense of visibility, belonging and care; and who and what we’re connected to both shows and influences our identity, choices and purpose. Connection is something we all need and deserve, it’s at the heart and soul of what give us, and life, meaning.
The only problem with connection having the Power of Greyskull to enrich our lives like He-Them cartoons, is that like Skeletor, disconnection has the Power of Snake Mountain to inflict some serious, long lasting harm, .. ..well… If Skeletor was a competent villainous sorcerer anyway…
Even at 6 or 7 years old, I knew the environment of drugs, violence, death, police raids, and bikie gangs and way more than whatever you’re imagining was unhealthy, unsafe and as abnormal as rolling joints being one of my chores. In a lifestyle that was run by the need for the high, I wasn’t a high priority.. I had a lot of adult role models though, just of everything not to be. Having a lot of my teachers, classmates and their parents supplied by my mother might have saved me from bullying and bad grades, but being the “drug dealer’s kid” also saved me from the welcoming, sleepovers, invitations, parties, friendships and all the connection, belonging and learning that comes with them.
I learned early on that the safest place for me was the opposite of connection – staying quietly out of the way, disconnected and not feeling, or feeling a part of, what was around me, that I couldn’t control, wishing I was anywhere else. Who knew there’s more to childhood than having all the lego the high life can buy!
In case you can’t tell, I’ve had A LOT of therapy to undo, unlearn and relearn how to manage the harm and mess created in my first 20 years… it did leave a couple of scars though. It took a long time to realise that connection is something I’ll probably never master, and still don’t entirely trust, understand or really feel it, far more than I’ll ever be ok with. It was only a few years ago that I realised this is why building and holding on to friendships has been a lifelong challenge… that, I’m still working on. Having disconnection as a core memory powers the rollercoaster of depression I’ve lived on and had to manage since I was a teenager. It’s been one of the common threads in my three attempts at suicide that started when I was 16. ( that I’m even here to snatch a crown is a lesson in sometimes, failing is the best thing you can do in life.).
No one deserves to feel disconnected, isolated, alone and doubting who or why they are- even when we tell ourselves we do. What we all deserve is to feel the power and impact connection has on every aspect of our lives. This was one of the main reasons I signed on as an Ambassador for suicide prevention charity R U OK? in 2017
Mental health is a challenging and complex ride for everyone, even more because it looks and tastes different on everyone. While we feel like we’re the only ones going through the twists, turns and flips of a mental rollercoaster, or that we don’t deserve help even if anyone wanted to, reality..when you can see it objectively…exposes the harmful lies we tell ourselves, and habits we corner ourselves with, for what they are. Lies that drive us further into harm by keeping us disconnected, at a time when we need connection most.
Being an R U OK Day Ambassador gives me a voice and opportunity to break open the stigma, mystery, fear and misconceptions about mental health and create the space, permission, understanding and normality that encourages more openness and action in a way I couldn’t see happening anywhere at the time. We talk a lot about mental health now, much more than we used to which is wonderful..we talk a lot about looking out for each other, making time to look after ourselves, about how invaluable good mental health is..about how we didn’t know a friend was struggling, about wanting to help, or get help, but not knowing what to do, but I sometimes wonder how well we put our words and best intentions into genuine action. Sometimes it feels like we keep having the same conversations, over and over.
We’re a hugely diverse community made of people who are between 3.5 and 14 times more likely to experience and live with depression, and too many of us feel the bites of disconnection, isolation, loneliness, fear or helplessness slowly pulling us apart until we believe that un-aliving ourselves is the only way to make it better… or worse, the only thing we deserve. In 2021, 3 144 people died by suicide – 61 people a week, 9 people a day who felt their only, or their best, solution to walking the field of dropped lego life laid out for them to step barefoot through, was to end their game, for all the reasons only they know. It’s only my absolute incompetence at the task(s) that’s saved me from being one of them, and after 3 attempts I can safely say I’m done, the idea of a 4th consecutive fail..it’s just too fucking cringe for me. There were however 65 000 attempts to suicide reported in 2021, and it’s the leading cause of death for 15 – 44 year olds. In our little rainbow community, reported attempts were 10x times higher than the general population.
There are such tiny, simple things we can all do to help each other – and ourselves – not just in the moment when we need it, but in the life in between when we don’t. While it’s true that we’re more connected and accessible to each other than ever before, that doesn’t mean we’re connecting more with each other in the meaningful ways we all need, or that we always know what that means..or even notice when someone.. or ourselves.. needs a little extra help, or a friend when they don’t know how to, or can’t, ask. And that’s ok, as long as we’re aware of it. Officially the statistics tell us that 50% of Australians reported experiencing mental ill health in their lifetime, but we all know life lives for a dramatic unexpected twist, and sometimes we all only get by one day at a time, with a little help from our friends.
Not sure how life shaken, not stirred, can look, or how to help, or how to just start a chat when you think it might be? R U OK? has this great, simple, 4 step guide to a conversation that helps you help others by Asking good questions, Listening – not solving, Encouraging Action and Checking In… It’s also worth knowing there are hundreds of different mental health support services available, so you can be a supportive friend, without becoming a support service. Check out the Mental Health Service Directory on my blog whenever you need it
I’m here now, thirsting after the Mr Gay Pride Australia crown for similar reasons that I’m an R U OK? Ambassador. This is a great platform to advocate, educate and encourage more open, meaningful talk and action, and change up how we talk and think about mental health. It is absolutely serious and personal, and can be complex, but if we can talk with some comfort and confidence, and find commonalities in our different experiences with mental health, there’s a sense of lightness we can bring to the seriousness that starts to make all it’s darkness feel less ominous, and more livable.
Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger gives you the twisted sense of humour you need to survive it.
The fact is we’re all fucked up in our own ways, and that’s ok… but it’s not ok that we’re taught that mental health is too scary, personal or vulnerable to talk about, and quarantining the topic is the best approach… so we don’t know it’s ok to be a bit fucked up in our own ways, and that talking about it helps, and connects us more…(as long as we’re not using it as an excuse to harm others).
When it comes to the underrated positive power and impact of connection, and the misunderstood power disconnection has to harm – maybe it’s the combination of my own experiences and working in social media that sees that the ways we more commonly connect now, and the habits technology has bent into us don’t serve us like we think they do. There’s a science to friendship that says it takes 200 hours of time and experiences physically shared to make a good friendship, and friendship diminishes if you don’t keep up this time together… screen time chats are great, and online friends are still great friendships, but it’s effort and time together that truly sparks the connection and belonging that we need, and trade way too easily for the convenience of screens and texts from distance – that just don’t give us what we think they do.
If you’re interested in more about that hot little pixel of truth, check out the talk I gave for Raising the Bar in 2021 – Facetime, Just Isn’t The Same as FaceTime.
There’s an intersection of connection, self-image, mental health and technology that’s more powerful, impactful and influential than we realise, and we all have more power to use it for good than we know. I’m really just here to encourage more kindness, more understanding, more openness, more realness, more connection, more belonging, more….power of Greyskull – expanding on what I do with R U OK? but with twists of queer and glitter that really make it rainbow flavoured – and hopefully bring a few laughs along the way to helping myself to the crown’s sparkle… uumm, what noooo.fuck..delete that…. I mean helping each other be our best and sparkle.
That’s the simple idea and passion I bring to Mr Gay Pride Australia.
Thanks for hearing my story, If you’re up for a challenge, check out and choose one of the ideas below and try doing it this November…
Love to see what you do, so tag me on Insta, TikTok and Twitter at @craigontoast and/or #MrGPAontoast
Challenge 1 – This one is more for you:
Start a Smile Jar
A Smile Jar is exactly what it sounds like – a big jar of things that make you smile. Here’s one of my Smile Jar’s to help explain it more.
Making a Smile Jar is simple,
- Find or buy a big glass jar and post-it notes. ( I use coloured ones)
- Decorate the jar, or don’t, however you like
- Every time something makes you happy, smile or feel good, write it on a post-it and add it to the jar. It can be anything you like. A night in with the real housewives, coffee with a friend, a dancefloor, a nap, a flower, a quote.. there are no rules to what makes you smile.
- Keep it displayed somewhere easily accessible and visible to you.
- Break open the jar whenever you like, or when you need a reminder that life isn’t made by a bad week.
- For bonus points, take note of the things that make you smile.. and make more time for more of that!
Challenge 2 – This one is more for others:
Throw a Eulogy for the Living Party.
During November, host a party that’s one big loving Eulogy for the Living…
Funerals and wakes are always filled with the best memories, stories, feelings, friends and moments of our lives. They’re arguably the biggest, most love-filled party we’ll ever have, and we all deserve to be there for that. We’d happily roast our friends, maybe even spit roast some them, but giving them actual love, kindness and gratitude is uncomfortable for most people, and usually reserved for only the worst days.
So why not smash that awkward social construct and throw a party full of well-deserved love, and hints of discomfort?
To bring the party and living eulogy to life:
> Ask everyone who is invited to bring some love for at least one other person at the party to share throughout the night.
> Everyone needs some love for at least one other person but can have something for as many people as they like
> Showing love doesn’t mean buying a gift, although it is all about giving one. You could bring
- A favourite story to tell others
- A card or note written just for them
- Telling others, or the person, why you think they’re awesome.
- If it’s right for a funeral, it’s right for the party
> Make sure everyone is included.
> Capture the stories and vibes of the night however you like
Last Updated on Oct 28, 2022