Young journo making headways on mental health

Ashley accepts her award. Photo Credit: Alen Delic at The Newspaper Works.

Out of the silence, out of the pain and the loneliness, a young journo brings hope

Young Journalist of the Year Ashley Argoon talks to Media Super about the inspiration behind her Walkley award winning campaign.

As a Monash university student, Ashley Argoon never had the self belief that she’d be hired as a journalist. It wasn’t as if ink ran in her veins. Her father was a mechanic and her mother was a company secretary.

Now 24, Ashley has been honoured in the 2013 Young Walkley Awards. She was named journalist of the year and won the award for best text journalism for the series of articles she wrote in support of Albury-Wodonga’s Border Mail suicide awareness campaign.

“It’s strange to be celebrated for work you have done because people have lost their lives and not had the support they needed when suffering from a mental illness. But at the same time, it’s great to get that recognition,” she says.

Ashley’s journey began when a Monash tutor saw her potential and helped her to get work experience with The Age. The newspaper published some of her articles and she landed a cadetship at the Border Mail commencing in April 2011.

The article series came about when the paper wanted to do something about the issue of suicide after one of Ashley’s colleagues at the Border Mail lost a sister after a battle with anorexia.

She first met with the Albury-Wodonga Suicide Prevention network where she unexpectedly found her first interview. A woman working there shared the story of her son who took his own life at 15.

What followed were 44 feature articles, hard news leads and columns about suicide, a subject that was affecting so many but was so little spoken of.

How did she get people to talk about such a painful issue? “I realised that once you initiate the conversation, people will open up and talk,” she says.

One evening, for instance, while out selling blue ribbons to help raise money for a winter solstice event in Albury in support of suicide survivors, a number of people approached her to share their stories, including one young man who told her of the painful silence surrounding his grandfather’s suicide; and another who confessed he’d just been released from Albury Base Hospital following a suicide attempt.

“It’s made me realise the importance of discussion. You can’t fix something if you don’t acknowledge it. Hopefully, in time, we will see less of those problems. We’ll see people being more open to conversation, which will make people feel less alone.”

Dealing with so many harrowing stories has been difficult over the last two years.

“There have been times I’ve gone home and just absolutely lost it; you can’t act like you haven’t been affected after you’ve talked to people about the suicide of their loved ones and how much pain they’ve gone through.”

Argoon has found solace in acknowledging her feelings and talking it through with colleagues, family and friends. “We have a fantastically supportive office and people are very conscious of each other’s mental states.”

This young journalistic gun, a member of Media Super, is determined to continue advocating for those who suffer from mental illness and who are affected by the suicide of loved ones.

“I don’t think I’ll ever stop reporting on these things until it becomes normalised,” she says.

 

If you are seeking help, or require urgent assistance, please contact a medical doctor or other mental health professional. For telephone-based assistance you may wish to call Lifeline (24 hours) on 13 11 14.

Thursday 12th September is RU OK Day, a mental health initiative aimed at encouraging conversations that can change lives. To learn more about the RU OK initiative, please visit their website at www.ruok.org.au.

For tips and resources about managing mental health in the workplace, visit the SuperFriend website at www.superfriend.com.au