Saturday, 28 September 2013

Give Up Coffee in October to support those with mental illnesses: Back to Blogging (for a good cause!)

Well hello there! I guess I should really start this by saying: I'm sorry. I wish I could say it won't happen again, but it probably will. The last two or three months have been an absolute insane whirlwind of whirling and winding (?) and we've barely had two seconds to breathe, let alone... well, blog.

Anyway, that's all for another time. We certainly have lots to share, and I have thought, more than a couple of times, "I should blog about that". Alas, I haven't. Thankfully, we have now been given a reason to blog and hopefully it'll give us the kick we need to do it a bit more regularly!

A few weeks ago we received an email about an initiative by Brisbane-based Group 61, a community group that supports those who have become isolated from society by their mental illness. Group 61 was started 12 years ago by John Fox: when visiting a young man, Damon, as part of a Neighbourhood Watch patrol, he was horrified at the conditions that Damon was living in, and how he had become completely disconnected from society as a consequence of his mental illness. John began visiting Damon regularly, helping him clean out his apartment and taking him to coffee. Over the course of a few years, Damon improved dramatically, to the point where he is now studying at university (where he mostly receives distinctions).

Group 61 was founded to support others in a similar situation to what Damon was in through a simple act: volunteers simply take their Friend for a weekly outing (whether it's a cup of coffee, a picnic or a trip to the beach). Such a small thing that can make such a difference to someone suffering from a mental illness.

There are now over 100 volunteers, but there are many more Friends on the listing waiting for a volunteer (and with 1 in 5 Australians affected by mental illness, the list can only grow!). It costs around $200 to support each volunteer-Friend relationship every year: that $200 goes straight towards outings.

And this is where we come in! 3 years ago, in order to support the growing network of volunteers and Friends, Group 61 started up their Coffee Break initiative. The principle is simple: donate your daily coffee (OK, coffees) to someone in need. Forgoing your caffeine fix can help a volunteer start a conversation with someone who has become isolated by a mental illness, and help them get their life back on track.

If you're ready to take the plunge, you can register here for a coffee-free October. If you can't imagine a whole month without coffee, you can sponsor a friend who has gone coffee-less, or you can make a general donation to support Group 61 here.

We all know someone who has been affected by mental illness: someone has to start the conversation, and what better way to do it than over coffee?

You can learn more about Group 61 in the video below, and by reading through the Coffee Break website. You can also find them on facebook.

In the meantime, help us come up with some tips for those giving up coffee in the comments! To be honest, Matt's idea is to switch to energy drinks or No-Doz caffeine pills (because we believe in Health), and mine is to switch to energy shots (those weird jel thingies that athletes eat (eat? is it food?)). But more helpfully:
  • take the time to form a relationship with tea: a good quality tea may seem expensive to begin with ($20 for a tiny little bag?!), but considering a tablespoon will get you a whole pot of tea, you can stretch that tiny bag out for a few weeks, even a few months! (and you'll still get a reasonable caffeine hit)
  • eat all the cake. Why have coffee and cake when you could have TWO SLICES OF CAKE?! (OK, maybe that belongs with our earlier suggestions...)
  • take this as a chance to start up other healthy habits: start the day with a walk, rather than a coffee; eat a good breakfast (which will keep you going better than a caffeine high); etc. I think I'd probably have more suggestions in this if I followed my own advice...
And, I'm rather embarrassed to say, that's my suggestions exhausted! (or lie to your friends/family/self and just tell them you've given up coffee but sneak an occasional flat white on the side whilst still donating: this is for charity, afterall!)

We will be back in the not-too-distant future (hopefully next week!) with a new blog post and should be returning to moderately regular programming soon!