Rae's Story

27 May 2023

Rae Murphy, 52, is an Education Assistant from Perth, Western Australia, who completed The Push-Up Challenge in 2022. She lost her son, Aaron, to suicide in 2017. Rae shares her experience with loss, processing her grief and how exercise helped her pull through.

Aaron and Rae

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

I first heard about The Push-Up Challenge through my connections with Lifeline WA. It looked like a fun and challenging event and a great way to raise awareness around mental health wellbeing. It was also a great way to fundraise, as a lot of other events I usually participate in had been cancelled due to Covid.


How did the experience of losing your son affect your own mental health? 

I lost my 18-year-old son, Aaron, to suicide in January 2017. From that second on, my world imploded and life has never been the same since. A world without Aaron in it has been impossible to comprehend. I live each day with a giant hole in my heart and in my life. 

My mental health has definitely been affected since losing Aaron. I have suffered with severe anxiety and intense sadness and have had many suicidal thoughts. I just didn’t know how I could go on without him.


How did you pull yourself through when you were processing this grief? 

I have been very fortunate to have a very close and supportive network of family and friends. They definitely got me through the initial stages of grief. But it’s not something that goes away, and it’s a very personal thing. We all grieve in different ways, so we do different things to get by. I keep myself incredibly busy, going back to work was a good distraction. I’ve found other parents in the same situation as me. They have become very close friends and we support each other as well as we can. Exercise has always been a priority in my life, but it is more so now. I find it imperative for my health and mental well-being. I especially love yoga, I find it challenging and it builds resilience in mind and body. I try to live simply now, taking each day as it comes, not sweating the small stuff anymore. When something like this happens to you, you reassess what is and isn’t worth worrying about. I get out into nature as much as I can. I particularly love forest walks and diving into the ocean. And I can’t forget my dog, he’s saved my life too. My constant companion and guardian angel.


What were the best things about participating in The Push-Up Challenge?

I really enjoyed The Push Up Challenge! It was so motivational and kick-started me into getting up early to do my push-ups and exercise each morning. I have a bit of trouble with my shoulders, so the option to switch it up with sit-ups and squats was great. I even kept doing it after the challenge had finished, because I loved how I felt afterwards. I felt fitter and uplifted to start each day.


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

Life in our modern world is incredibly demanding and filled with so much pressure. More and more people are struggling to keep up with life and are suffering with anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. Foundations like Push for Better are helping to raise more awareness around it, reminding people to check in with themselves and take care of themselves. The more awareness the better. We need to be constantly reminded to make our mental health a priority.


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

Do it! I enjoyed it so much. It’s challenging – but not too hard that you can’t meet the target each day. If you can’t do push-ups, switch them up with sit-ups and squats. It was great to check in with my team members and cheer each other along. It was also very rewarding to be able to raise funds for my chosen charity, Lifeline WA, who work so hard in suicide prevention.


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

Please make it a priority to look after yourself first. Slow down, take some time to do things that bring you joy. If you are feeling mentally unwell, please let someone know. You must realise that there are so many people who love and need you in their lives and that there is help out there. My Aaron never told anyone that he was suffering with his mental health. If only he had known the impact his departure left on his family and friends and community, how much we love him and would have helped him.

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.