Francis's Story

29 May 2023

Francis Lorente, 24, from Adelaide, South Australia, lost a mate from high school to suicide. From not being able to do a push-up at all before signing up, he has now completed The Push-Up Challenge several times, raising funds and awareness to help #pushforbetter mental health in Australia. Here, he tells us about how losing a mate to suicide affected his own mental health, what has helped him pull through tough times, and the conversation that inspired him to never stop pushing.


Were push-ups something you did regularly before the Challenge? 

I think before the Challenge, I physically couldn’t do a push-up without hurting my shoulders. 


You must be pretty good at push-ups now? 

Oh, I mean, once it rolls around every year, I remind myself that these are still quite tricky! 


Why did you initially sign up to The Push-Up Challenge?  

I do this with some of my mates. We had an old friend of ours in high school who passed due to mental health. We didn’t know what else to do during the mourning stage. It was, ah, it was just a whole lot of helplessness. One day I was scrolling through Facebook, and I saw The Push-Up Challenge and I went to the boys and rallied them up. It may be one thing, but it’s better to do that than nothing at all. So, we took the initiative to give it a go – and we loved it. 

It’s always... it’s still quite painful every time we start the Challenge, because we are reminded of why. But it’s definitely incredibly rewarding doing The Push-Up Challenge. 


Did you find that your own mental health was affected after losing your friend to suicide? 

It was. There was a loss of direction and a loss of motivation. There were times where... I was quite... I did miss him a lot, especially last year. When he did pass, it was quite a loss of feeling, I suppose.  


What did you find helped you pull through during this time? 

It was difficult to reach out to people, as much as I do advocate for it for a lot of my colleagues, and a lot of my friends. But just that physical, not even distraction but just being able to work out, it does help channel a lot of the pain. Yeah, it was quite difficult reaching out, but since the Challenge it’s been a lot easier now to do so. So that’s a positive effect I think that I've taken away from The Push-Up Challenge. I started therapy straight after last year’s Challenge, just because I was like, as much as I can just do push-ups and work out, there are more steps and there are other avenues and opportunities that I can take. So yeah, it has become a whole lot better since then.  


What was the best thing about doing The Push-Up Challenge?  

I'm a school teacher, and I was talking about the fundraising during a staff meeting, and one of my colleagues who was very quiet, and who I hadn’t actually connected with throughout the school year, she came up to me at the end of the staff meeting. She was crying, but she was still smiling, and she explained that she lost her son to mental health. And what stuck with me was she said, “I saw the amount that you have to do every day by yourself,” and she said, “Thank you for pushing, not just for all of us, but thank you for pushing for people like my son, who can’t push anymore.” I feel like that really gave me a lot of perspective, a lot of gratitude. That definitely did motivate me to finish off the rest of the push-ups. That was a moment that I thought, ‘this is a really unique initiative’. I love it, yeah.  


If you could share a message of your own around mental health, what would it be?  

If there is one thing in the world that will always be free, but it doesn’t hurt to do, it’s to just be kind. A lot of the time, the world is moving so fast, and everyone’s at different paces, and you don’t know what people are going through – so, instead of rushing someone, or pushing someone, I feel like the only thing to do is to just be kind.  


What would you say to someone who is considering doing The Push-Up Challenge, but maybe they’re not sure if they can do that many push-ups? 

The first step is always daunting, but even if you do half of a push-up, or if you even take the effort to get onto the ground and try, that’s more than enough. Because at the end of the day, everyone has their own capacities, but nothing negative comes from trying. And nothing happens from doing nothing.  


Is there anything else you want to share? 

I just wanted to say from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Because that challenge is what I look forward to every year. It’s just given me a reason to hang around. And to hope for the next year and do it again. I don’t know how to express my gratitude as much as other people may, but I'm still here because of that challenge. I really don’t know how to express how thankful I am.  

Read more participant stories on our blog. 

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 789 978.