Sam Webb Cofounder of LIVIN on Why #ItAintWeaktoSpeak
He may hail from Sydney, Australia, but Sam Webb has traveled the globe to further a cause that he’s keenly passionate about: mental health and suicide prevention. Sam has fought his own mental health challenges, as almost anyone can relate, but it’s the act of a dear friend, Dwayne Lally, taking his own life three years ago that spurred Sam to action.
To fight back against the all-too-common (and pervasive) stigma of mental health, in 2013 Sam cofounded the charity LIVIN (www.livin.org.au), an organization that promotes the mantra “it ain’t weak to speak.” Whether it’s through international presentations to schools or sporting organizations or via LIVIN’s innovative fashion line, Sam’s efforts focus on making mental health an approachable, even cool, subject to broach for all—those who are experiencing a mental health challenge firsthand as well as those who are concerned for friends or family. Mental health isn’t a silo meant to shut anyone away from the world, and Sam is traveling the globe to spread the message that it ain’t weak to speak—to speak up about your own struggles and to speak out against mental health’s stigma.
For more on why Sam chose apparel as the best vehicle to spread his message and how he’s used another passion of his (film and TV) to promote the cause, keep reading. And don’t miss Sam’s upcoming interview with Mental Health News Radio—he’ll be catching up with Kristin Walker and the MHNR crew in his latest visit stateside. We’ll be meeting up for dinner in New York with the cast and crew of the incredible documentary The Ripple Effect with Kevin Hines.
MHNR: Do you have a personal connection to this cause? Why is this cause so close to your heart?
Webb: Mental health challenges and suicide are both things I have experienced on a number of occasions before Dwayne had died, so this cause holds a very dear place in my heart. Having had my own struggles with my mental health and also losing people inside my family to suicide, I know too well the impacts that this has on people. When Dwayne passed away, it was the final straw for me to do something positive from something that was so meaningless.
MHNR: “LIVIN uses apparel, events and motivational programs to kickstart the conversation about mental health and suicide prevention,” according to its website. Can you talk a bit about why you’ve chosen these avenues as the best way to reach people with your message? And what feedback are you receiving from people on its effectiveness?
Webb: Mental health is very taboo. It has this negative stigma that has been aligned with it for many decades now, so we needed to do something that was different to make it “cool” to speak about it. Fashion and apparel was a great way for us to do exactly that.
It is a very effective way of starting the communication, which in many instances can be the biggest challenge for people. We have received a lot of positive feedback and when we see people wearing the gear, you almost feel connected straight away and that’s the cool thing about it. It doesn’t judge.
MHNR: You developed the hashtag #itaintweaktospeak. Can you speak a bit about what this hashtag means—and whom you hope hears it most?
Webb: “It Ain’t Weak to Speak” is exactly that. We want people to know that it is OK to not be OK. This battle is very common in our society, and if we can motivate and inspire people to speak up and seek help, this could be the positive turning point they need in their life. When people are encouraged to speak up and accept their emotions, it is a very powerful thing to do.
MHNR: I heard you’ve spent some time in the limelight (as a contestant on Australian Survivor) and have even gotten support from some A-list celebrities, such as actor Chris Hemsworth. How has your time on-camera (and such high-profile support) helped your cause?
Webb: I have had a passion for film and TV now since I was little kid. I have also studied acting and hope to pursue a career in film and TV outside of running LIVIN. I find performing very therapeutic for my well-being so it is a great way to complement my work with LIVIN. If I can build my own personal profile around film and TV, I can help promote the LIVIN mantra more effectively and to more people for the greater good.
That said, having Chris Hemsworth on board and supporting LIVIN is amazing, and it has allowed us to help so many more people. Utilizing people with high profiles to promote the message has been a strategy we have used since day one. But no matter who is wearing our gear or spreading awareness about this case, we always make sure that whoever promotes our message has a personal connection to it, which adds that extra credibility to what we are preaching.
MHNR: You met Mental Health News Radio host Kristin Walker at the recent National Conference for Behavioral Health. Why were you there, and what were you hoping to accomplish?
Webb: We were invited to be a part of this event to help spread the work we are doing in Australia and to also see the awesome work that is getting done in America. It was a great space to connect with so many like minded people and to see where the future is taking all of us—as well as our concurrent message about mental health.
MHNR: Will you be back?
Webb: We are booked to attend 2017, and we are very excited to be a part of it again.
MHNR: Any future collaborations or work with Mental Health News Radio that readers can look forward to?
Webb: We have a few irons in the fire that we are excited about. The crew at Mental Health News Radio is absolutely amazing. They all have helped us so much, and I am very grateful to be working with them in this space.
MHNR: What’s your advice to listeners or anyone reading this on how they can help you, and LIVIN, spread your message about mental health empowerment and suicide prevention?
Webb: If you’re in doubt, reach out! They are my words of wisdom for anyone out there. Specifically on how to help us spread our message, head to livin.org.au and get some merchandise to help smash the stigma.
MHNR: Conversely, what’s your message for anyone reading this who might be (or love someone who is) struggling with their own mental health battle?
Webb: It is OK. Give yourself permission to feel this way. Be patient to find the right fit and remember you are No. 1, so always take care of yourself first.
MHNR: Sam, a little bird told us you are launching your own podcast? Can you share any news with our readers and listeners?
Webb: Yes! Kristin and Melanie met me in New York last year and we decided that it was past time for me to have my own show. I’ll be interviewing guests from all over the globe about mental health, physical health, business health – it’s a no holds-barred show. It’s called #Vulnerable and we go live in March of 2017. Kristin decided to create a network of podcasts called Mental Health News Radio Network. This is where my show will live. She’s been mentoring me on how to do podcasts and by the time March hits, we’ll be ready to launch!