Tackling mental health issues is not an easy task. Getting suffers to talk about the unspoken is even harder. One bloke aims to harness the power of technology and its impact on humans to drive social change. Social entrepreneur and mental health advocate Ehon Chan, encourages Australian men to “Soften The Fck Up”. And yes, you read it right.
Soften the Fck Up is an online campaign that wants Aussie men to face up to mental health.
According to recent stats from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, more Australians are killed each year by suicide than transport related accidents. Figures show that four out of five suicides are committed by men. In 2009, over 1,500 males and 499 females deaths were suicide related. It’s an issue that has reportedly lead Australia to have the second highest suicide rate in the world.
Ehon, a Medical Science graduate from South Australia’s Flinders University, is no stranger to coping with depression after the loss of his best friend that made him question his calling in life.
It was two years ago, where he sat down with his mate, your typical Aussie bloke, who shared his unspoken battle with anxiety and depression that he suffered throughout high school.
“He ended up in hospital one day and was diagnosed with anxiety and
depression while in university” Ehon said. “A big part of this campaign is challenging the ‘real man’ stereotype.”
“There is a misconception that mental health is only a female issue,” he added.
Mr Chan said the aim was to use social media to spread the message and website link. Shout outs were made on Twitter and FaceBook and the message went viral.
“We live in a world where the virtual world and the physical world lay on top of each other.” Mr Chan said. “We don’t just live in a physical world anymore.”
He said the slogan was initially a joke and had opted to use “Soften Up Mate” but after jotting down 20 slogans, “Soften The Fck Up” was chosen.
Ehon says the whole idea is to alter the stereotype of what a real man is. After countless discussions, he and his entourage penciled their strategy onto paper to help drive out this social dilemma.
“What I realized was, what makes me happy is actually giving back and helping other people”.
“There is a lack of mental health programs that young men feel comfortable engaging with now-a-days,” Ehon says. “We need to increase mental health literacy, promote health seeking, community involvement and reduce the stigma around the issue,” he added.
Since going viral, the campaign has recruited over 35 volunteers and the “Soften the Fck Up” website (www.softenthe- fckup.com.au) was launched on July 15, featuring stories and videos of brave Aussie men talking about their mental health issues.
To date, the campaign has raised over $2500 with the objective to achieve its $6000 funding goal. The campaign can be found on www.startsomegood. com – “a new crowd funding platform that gives social entrepreneurs the tools they need to transform their ideas that aim to improve the world through action and impact”.
Ehon moved to Australian shores five years ago and was, not surprisingly,
named “one of the world’s most inspiring young achievers and innovators under 30” by the Sandbox Network.
He is currently a board member for PlanBig at Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Co-Founder at Youth, Entrepreneurship & Social Innovation in Brisbane and the Youth Ambassador at Inspire Foundation.