Our latest CALI Award winner is Ben Robinson – an inspiring surfer, traveller, speaker, coach, Black Dog youth presenter, educator, positive mental health advocate, rigger and producer of 3mates7seas.
Q: Tell us about 3mates7seas.
Ben: 3mates7seas is the story about my two friends and I, who surfed the world’s seven seas in an effort to help decrease the rise of youth suicide in Australia. The story has recently been produced into an award winning documentary, and is currently being entered into film festivals around the world.
Q: What inspired you to make 3mates7seas?
Ben: Who wouldn’t be inspired to surf around the world with two of their best mates, travelling to over 30 countries, chasing the world’s best waves! At the same time I also wanted the trip to benefit others, as I think sometimes travel can be a bit one sided. Rather than just travelling to exotic locations and asking whats in it for me, I wanted to help others to be inspired to chase their dreams too.
It is a strong belief of mine that the closer we align ourselves with living an authentic life, the more it allows others to live congruently too. Those who live purposefully, are better placed to help change the world.
Unfortunately at around the same time we began the planning of surf locations and countries to visit, my friends and I were shocked to discover that suicide in Australia is a leading cause of death for people aged between 15-44.
To think that more people die from suicide in Australia than on our roads, and that in every year 12 classroom of 30 students, at least one young person in that class will have attempted suicide. The three of us believed that this was just unacceptable and we wanted to help change that.
Q: Why do you think suicide is the leading cause of death of young people in Australia?
Ben: If I, or anyone else, knew the single answer to that question, I think the mental health of our nation would be in a lot better shape! This statistic has been around for a long time in Australia and that is really sad. I just attended a wedding recently, where both the father of the groom and the best man had attempted to take their own lives.
Geez, I sound pretty gloomy! But there is hope…. I think it was Amnesty International who said, it is better to light a candle, than to curse the darkness.
In my experience I think we have such a problem in Australia because of several reasons – disenfranchised communities in regional and indigenous Australia, as well as a lack of education, diagnosis and awareness around people who are impacted by mood disorders.
Stigma is a big factor too, as there is a perception that having poor mental health means you are crazy or weak. Some of the world’s most inspirational and greatest change-makers suffered from mood disorders; Sir Winston Churchill and Elvis Presley, to name a couple. That is probably the only reference where Elvis and Winston have ever been connected!
The sooner more people know that it is okay to seek help, especially men, the sooner they can get better.
Q: What are some of the biggest lessons you learnt on your journey?
Ben: Having your life filmed for two years straight, then watching it on a big screen in front of people you don’t know, is a reasonably cathartic experience. I learnt a lot about the impact my behaviour has on others, and that there are always at least three ways to do something. As you will see in the film, Howie and I butted heads a bit, but it made for a better trip in the end.
Also that what you do, comes back to you tenfold – I think some people call this karma. We set out to help others by giving free talks to high school students in regional Australia, about how to get through tough times. Yet, it ended up being those same school students who helped us complete the expedition.
For example, we crashed our car in the Sahara Desert and just wanted to go home, but then we would receive a message from a student to push us on to complete what we had set out to do. We also learnt the hard way, that even in the world’s best surf locations, you get long flat spells too.
Q: What is something you are really proud of achieving with this project?
Ben: I am stoked we did it! We surfed all of the 7 seas, sometimes with very little money, few resources, and a lack of belief that we were even going to get there. But more importantly than that, is the fact that my two mates and I are still the best of friends today.
It is great that almost weekly, we are hearing stories of hope from people whose lives are impacted by mood disorders, who are benefiting from viewing our film or from simply hearing about our story on television.
I am also proud that 3mates7seas have partnered up with the Black Dog Institute, and because of this, our documentary will be getting some exposure in schools. It is a humbling experience to know that I have been selected to be one of Black Dog’s youth presenters, to ensure young people are getting access to cutting-edge evidence based research, to help them through their own tough times.
We are also donating 50% of all profits from the sale of the 3mates7seas DVD, to the Black Dog Institute.
Q: What drives you?
Ben: Many things drive me. One of my favourite quotes is “Be the change, you wish to see in the world”, by Ghandi. I understand nobody is perfect, but I try to use that single quote to guide my own actions. Everyday we have a choice to be a victim or victor, and it is our actions that show others which we have chosen.
When I see other people doing meaningful things, I try to be more like them, and help support their cause with my own unique gifts. The prevention of youth suicide is not going to come solely from a documentary or a singular organisation, It is my belief that lasting change will happen via a community-based approach, where all members are doing something to help.
Q: If you had your way, everyone in the world would spend 5 mins a day…
Ben: Arming themselves with ways to lead healthier lives. When you bring your best self to the world, the world by default becomes a better place.
Exercise your mood, eat healthier, support a friend, be a gatekeeper of your thoughts, set a goal, acknowledge your success, meditate, remember to breathe, help others, volunteer, appreciate the little things in life – like a swim in the ocean, or go for a SURF!
Lastly, if you only take one message away from this interview, let it be this: have a conversation with someone you are worried about and seek help if you are concerned about your own mental health. A good place to start is the Black Dog Institute.