The following interview is part of a “future of mental health” interview series that will be running for 100+ days. This series presents different points of view about what helps a person in distress. I’ve aimed to be ecumenical and included many points of view different from my own. I hope you enjoy it. As with every service and resource in the mental health field, please do your due diligence. If you’d like to learn more about these philosophies, services, and organizations mentioned, follow the links provided.
Interview with Nicole Gibson
Nicole Gibson, founder of Australia’s Rogue & Rouge Foundation, describes how schools can augment their offerings to their students by bringing in organizations like hers. Organizations like the Rogue & Rouge Foundation provide a unique “outside” service for today’s stressed and distressed teenagers.
EM: You are the founder and CEO of the Australian-based Rogue & Rouge Foundation. Can you tell us a little bit about what it is and what it does?
NG: Sure thing! I founded The Rogue & Rouge Foundation in 2011, on my 18th birthday, after a personal experience with Anorexia Nervosa alongside other mental health challenges throughout the most formative and impressionable years of my life.
The foundation takes an entirely different approach towards mental health, one that’s entirely community based and non-clinical. Through engaging young people through schools and community groups, alongside service providers, parents and teachers to cultivate much needed discussion, we believe that mental health can be tackled as a normal part of everyday life.
After working in 300 communities Australia-wide, and impacting more than a quarter of a million young Australians, the team is truly convinced that the largest national contributor to mental ill health is disconnection. By creating a generation of young Australians that understand how to authentically connect to themselves, each other and their passion in life, by learning to become their own masters, we can create a population of Australians that lead full-filled, healthy and inspiring lives.
Our programs were written after a team of four of us travelled Australia in Combi vans as teenagers, conducting Australia’s largest hands-on research into youth mental health. We now deliver our programs through schools, universities, community groups and work places.
EM: What do you see as the major stressors facing teens today and what do you think can help them deal with those stressors?
NG: I believe all stress, regardless of age, comes down to the same root-cause; a lack of alignment with self and purpose. I believe in today’s world we are often stifled and bombarded with thousands of opinions on what to do, who to be, what to think, what to conform to; and that we lose our own voice.
We can no longer hear the voice inside of us, guiding us in the right direction. Anxiety and stress often come down to this misalignment, and in order to shift this, time in stillness is crucial, time away from the loudness of the world, to connect within. Every person will find this in a different way; whether that be meditation, mindfulness practice, running (sports) or otherwise.
EM: You believe in education and educational programs as a way to help with individual emotional and mental health. How can a school, organization or community create, find or bring in those educational resources?
NG: It’s important for schools to remember that they can’t be everything for their students—there are valuable community organizations that specialize in the delivery of this education and it’s the school’s role to take initiative and form those crucial relationships with external organizations. The relationship an objective facilitator can form with a student, in my experience, is a necessary consideration when it comes to this work. Young people will often tell me it’s far easier to open up to someone who’s a little bit removed from their everyday world, who’s closer in age and more easily relatable. For schools, it’s essential to create on-going opportunities for young people to engage with this work at different ages and different intellectual and emotional levels.
EM: What are your thoughts on the current, dominant paradigm of “diagnosing and treating mental disorders” and the use of so-called “psychiatric medication” to “treat mental disorders” in children and teens?
NG: I like to take a bit of a different view to most when it comes to psychiatric medication. I honestly feel that our responsibility here on Earth is to learn to master ourselves, and what happens in another’s journey, is not up to us to judge or formulate opinions. Personally, I feel it’s important to understand our minds and bodies free of any substances—however that’s based on my own disciplines and practice, and I try and steer clear of dictating or voicing my options to others.
EM: If you had a loved one in emotional or mental distress, what would you suggest that he or she do or try?
NG: The most important thing to create for anyone, in particular a loved one, is a space of total permission and acceptance. It’s only through complete acceptance that a person can understand and process exactly what’s present for them. It is not our responsibility to advise or give answers to someone else—we are the most qualified to make our own decisions. I feel that the best thing we can do for others is allow them to be exactly as they are, and this provides a platform of genuine healing. The best way to create this for another is to step away from your ego—to let go of the need to ‘fix’ or ‘save’ someone, and realize that by playing the hero, that automatically puts the other person in the role of victim. No one is a victim of their circumstances; they in fact contribute to creating them. It requires a strong degree of empowerment to move through challenge, adversity, trauma and distress—and this can only be accessed when the individual is empowered to take responsibility for themselves and their choices.
Nicole is committed to making a positive difference in the lives of young people. After overcoming mental health challenges as a young person, in particular anorexia nervosa, Nicole is channeling her energy into motivating other young people to be the best they can be. In 2011, Nicole established The Rogue & Rouge Foundation to reverse the stigmatization of mental health, body image and self-esteem issues in Australia’s young people. Nicole is tackling her social cause through the creation of community outreach programs; working directly with schools, service providers and education departments in both central and remote parts of Australia. Nicole has facilitated workshops at 300 schools and communities with over 150 000 people across Australia. Ms. Gibson was a finalist for Young Australian of the Year 2014, one of Australia’s top 100 most influential women, was appointed onto the National Mental Health Commission as the youngest ever commissioner, named as one of Australia’s 2012 Young Social Pioneers and won The Pride of Australia Inspiration Medal in 2014.
Eric Maisel, Ph.D., is the author of 40+ books, among them The Future of Mental Health, Rethinking Depression, Mastering Creative Anxiety, Life Purpose Boot Camp and The Van Gogh Blues. Write Dr. Maisel at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit him at http://www.ericmaisel.com, and learn more about the future of mental health movement at http://www.thefutureofmentalhealth.com
To see the complete roster of interview guests, please visit here: