How Leah uses her mental health challenges to help others
There are many ways to raise mental health awareness, but Leah does this by being part of the Beyond Blue Speaker Program. Her story is one of learning to take care of ourselves in order to achieve big goals and help others.
Warning: this article may be emotionally confronting to some readers.
At the age of 15, Leah Schamschurin was diagnosed with anorexia and anxiety, and experienced symptoms of depression.
It was when she had a panic attack, while out at a restaurant with her family, that Leah knew she needed to take action and seek support. She realised this was the only way she’d be able to live her life in the best way possible.
Over the next couple of years, Leah became determined to make a difference. At 18, she joined Beyond Blue’s Speaker Program.
Sharing stories to help others feel hopeful
The Beyond Blue Speaker Program, supported by Australia Post, aims to raise awareness of mental health challenges and encourage people to seek support.
Alongside other Speakers who share their stories, Leah has witnessed the ways in which sharing her own story in workplaces, schools, sporting clubs and community groups helps people with their mental health.
Leah’s own experiences motivated her to become a Beyond Blue Speaker straight out of high school. “Because I know how it feels to be so alone and uneducated, I became a Speaker to try and help as many people as possible feel like they are seen, heard, and that there is hope for them,” she explains.
One of the biggest milestones for Leah was her first speaking event, which was held at her high school. She says it was afterwards that the full impact of how far she’d come hit her. “When I got back to my car, I couldn’t help but cry tears of joy and pride. I felt like I had a real impact on those students and teachers. And I couldn’t believe that I was back in the same place where I’d had panic attacks only a few years prior. It felt like I’d come such a long way.”
Australia Post is proud to be a partner of the Beyond Blue Speaker Program. We believe that sharing stories of hope, resilience and recovery is a vital part of connecting people across the country.
How Leah takes care of her mental health and wellbeing
For Leah, taking her first step towards seeking help meant talking to a professional for advice. She also opened up to her family and reached out to those with similar experiences on the Beyond Blue forums.
Now aged 22, Leah has learned a lot about the wellbeing strategies that work for her in the years since she first found support.
Her strategies include staying active, journaling, and setting aside half an hour each week to sit quietly and check in with herself. By being more in tune with her thoughts and feelings, Leah finds she can better identify triggers, and implement the preventative measures that help her to stay well.
While her speaking helps others, Leah is also careful to look after her own wellbeing before and after each of the events she attends as a Beyond Blue Speaker.
This includes checking in with herself and practising self-care before any speaking event. She also makes sure she’s eaten and has been out for a walk, which helps her to feel grounded and calm. After an event, Leah gives herself 10 to 15 minutes to sit in her car and do some deep breathing exercises while reflecting on how her talk went.
Building up her resilience helped Leah through
There was a time when Leah couldn’t imagine being able to leave the house without having a panic attack. But, having built up her wellbeing and resilience, and seeking continued support, Leah has a big goal ahead of her: a scholarship to study in Fiji.
She says, “This opportunity means the world to me, as I’ve always dreamed of studying overseas, but thought for a long time it wouldn’t be possible because of my mental health and eating disorder.”
When sharing her story during her talks, there is one message that Leah wants the audience to take away: “You are never alone, no matter what you’re going through, and there is never any shame in reaching out for help. In fact, it’s the most courageous and valuable thing you could ever do.”
Australia Post is proud to support our partner Beyond Blue. Together, we aim to connect more people with mental health and wellbeing resources and services, and each other—because when we connect, we feel better.