Dean's Story

20 Mar 2024

Dean, 34, is a mining supervisor from Northam, WA. He completed The Push-Up Challenge in both 2022 and 2023.

Why do you think we need to push for better mental health right now?

I haven’t experienced too much mental anguish myself, but I’ve been around it. My sister, Jessica, lost her battle with anorexia seven years ago. I have my moments where life’s tough, and I know that everyone goes through it. It’s the sort of thing you should talk about. It always helps me if I’m struggling with something to get it off my chest.

Why did you decide to sign up to the Push-Up Challenge?

I’ve got my sister’s story, which is something I think about when I’m trying to do things like that. For me, depression and anxiety are the big contributors to the problems anorexia creates. That’s why I’m always a big supporter of these mental health programs and hope I can help some people along the way that face the same struggles my sister did. And just because I know everyone goes through challenges, I guess. My mate put it to the group, that we’d do it together, and I just thought it was a great idea.

Have you experienced mental health challenges yourself?

I have, yeah definitely. I couldn’t be sure, but I don’t think I’ve been clinically depressed or anything like that, but I’ve definitely had times where I’ve been down in the dumps or stressed out, or gone through periods where I just haven’t really been that happy.

If I was to be blatantly honest, the start of this year was actually pretty tough for me. That’s one thing that, when we were doing the challenge, made it a motivator for me. I felt like I had been going through a bit myself this year, just having three kids, a full-time job working away, and trying to tick all the boxes with your responsibilities whilst also enjoying your life, and not just doing it all because you’re obliged to do it. I guess I was just feeling a bit too much like an adult, and like I had all these responsibilities, and it just started to weigh on me a little bit.

How did you pull yourself out when you were in a tough place?

I’m not sure what changed for me, but I think just speaking about it was one of those things that helped. Telling my missus about it, sharing it with people. And then, just trying not to take life too seriously. My mate Bolts is one of those people I can just have a ring and just say, you know, this is bothering me, and I just feel lighter after telling someone like him, or my partner, Steph.

Dean with his wife, Steph, and kids. 

Do you think it’s harder for men to open up and talk about these things?

I wouldn’t say it’s harder… it has changed, so guys don’t feel like they have to try and hide it. But I think some guys – and I’m probably guilty of this at times – do think like, ‘I’ve got such a good life, and I’ve got so much to be grateful for, I shouldn’t be upset, I shouldn’t be depressed’. So, sometimes we put on a brave face because of that and think, ‘I’ve got so much to be grateful for.’

I think some guys are getting to be able to talk about it, but some blokes just aren’t good at talking about their feelings. I think that is a blokey thing, a lot of the guys just don’t know how, because they just haven’t had good examples of other people around them expressing themselves very well. So yeah, I think guys sometimes struggle with it.

Any advice for others about how they could start to open up if they’re feeling down?

It doesn’t matter who you’ve got, whether it’s your best mate, or your mum, or your dad, or brother or sister or whatever – or even if you don’t have any one individual, there’s all these helplines you can call now and talk to someone. But I think the most important thing, regardless of who you’re talking to, is just to be able to say, ‘Look, I’m struggling a bit,’ you know, or, ‘I don’t feel great,’ ‘I’m not happy’.

Maybe you can’t always pinpoint why, but just being able to say, ‘I’m not my happy self,’ or ‘I’m not in a good space,’ or, ‘These things are stressing me out or making me sad’. Just talking about it a lot of the time helps you feel better about it. It can also lead to coming up with ways to deal with it; or talking to someone who might have a different point of view, can help you reframe it and see it in different light, which is sometimes all you need to do as well.

How did you keep pushing during the challenge’s tough days?

I think the app made it easier to keep yourself accountable, so you can see what you’ve done and how many you still needed to do. But on the days my chest was sore and I was struggling to get through, I’d do mine in lots of 25. Some days I’d do lots of 10 because I was starting to get fatigued. Definitely the fact that we were doing it as a group, and we had a bit of a fundraising target, helped.

What would you say to someone considering participating in The Push-Up Challenge?

Oh, definitely do it. It’s not just a good cause, but good for your health, and your daily dose of exercise, and a good conversation-starter. Just being told each day the number of push-ups you need to do, and the app would tell you how that number tied into the whole cause and mental health stats – it was some learnings, if you are struggling, or just something good to know and to learn along the way.

If you could share a message of your own around mental health with our community, what would that be?

I think for me it’s definitely, don’t be afraid to admit you’re struggling. Put your hand up and say, ‘I don’t have it all under control,’ or ‘I need some help,’ even if that help is just in the form of an ear, and someone just listening to you let it out and get out what you’re feeling. Don’t just sit in silence and try to bear the weight of it all yourself. Most of the time I think it’s you that has to fix your own problems; but getting it out into the open is one of those things that helps you get the ball rolling. So, don’t be afraid to talk is all I’ll ever say.

Thanks so much to our legend Dean for joining the #pushforbetter and sharing his story. 

You can register now for the Push-Up Challenge 2024.

If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health challenges, Lifeline offers 24/7 crisis support on 131 114. MensLine Australia offers phone and online counselling for men experiencing relationship or family issues on 1300 78 99 78.