With October being Mental Health Awareness Month, Killcare Heights resident Tammy Hewitt says it is an important time to tackle the stigma that still surrounds access to mental health services.
Hewitt was faced with her own challenges when she saw a deterioration of her mental health following the birth of her daughter Indie, now almost two.
“I was formerly a corporate executive but when I tried to return to work after having Indie, I lasted just two hours,” she said.
Eventually terminated by her employer, Hewitt contracted shingles and was forced to isolate from her daughter for 12 days.
“My mental health continued to go downhill very quickly – I was at an all-time low,” she said.
In June this year, Hewitt began a 100-day program of facing her fears and overcoming them in an effort to tackle her anxiety levels.
Naming her determination to improve her mental health Kick Fear in the Butt, Hewitt tackled some debilitating fears, such as of flying and heights, along with some more personal and deeper challenges.
“I don’t like flying even though I was doing it in my job so we took Indie on a joy ride in a tiny plane,” she said.
“It was really fun even though I was scared.”
Determined to keep herself “accountable” for a change in attitude every day, Hewitt set about transforming her silver SVU into a vehicle of hope to share the message of hope with others.
“I worked with one of my sponsors at Signorama in Erina to give my car a colourful makeover with the messaging on it hoping to spark those important conversations,” she said.
“I want to inspire others to kick their fears.
“A lot of anxiety comes from fear of rejection, a fear that we are not good enough.
“My car is now a rainbow car, full of affirmation.
“I still feel anxious every time I step into it but I wanted it to be a conversation starter.
“I want others to start talking about their fears.”
Hewitt intends to continue to spread the message of conquering fear to improve mental health.
Next week she will drive the ‘rainbow car’ to Queensland, raising awareness along the way and encouraging donations to five national charities which her campaign supports – R U OK, Friends with Dignity, Friend in Me, Bears of Hope and the Gidget Foundation.
“I will be handing out affirmation cards, starting conversations and sharing my story,” she said.
“I also have merchandise for sale with all profits going directly to those charities.”
A trained scientist, Hewitt said she found the neuroscience associated with mental health fascinating.
With a new website, mummmalifeisnow.com, she hopes to continue to spread messages of positivity, particularly to new mothers, and would like to ultimately take her message global.
“I want to support mums to face fear and break free from the clutches of stress and anxiety so that they feel alive again,” she said.
“My vision is all about inspiring mums across the globe to live life to the fullest and to leave a lasting imprint on this world.”
Hewitt’s campaign of positivity has seen her named a finalist in three categories of the ROAR Awards, with winners to be announced in November.
She is a finalist in the categories of Best mental health advocate, Start up of the year and Make a difference.
Member for Gosford, Liesl Tesch, hopes Hewitt’s story will help inspire improvements in reducing stigmas and encouraging those who need help to feel comfortable in seeking it.
“Mental health needs to be taken as seriously as physical health,” she said.
“Not seeing it does not mean that it is not there.
“I thank Tammy for turning her own personal struggle into a source of light and love, and I am sure this will lead to starting many needed conversations both during and beyond Mental Health Awareness Month.”
To buy merchandise or donate to support national mental health charities, visit mummalifeisnow.com.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.