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Trigger Warning: This article discusses mental health and suicide.
Pandemic fatigue and ongoing lockdowns have had an impact on our collective mental health, with many Australian's reporting increased feelings of loneliness, isolation and psychological distress over the past two years.
According to World Health Organisation nearly one billion people worldwide are living with some kind of mental illness.
With support systems overloaded and traditional therapy not appealing to everyone, platforms such as Bonny Co are aiming to offer another pathway for connection.
Bonny Co grew out of founders lived experiences
Following the painful loss of her best friend, Michele, to depression, Kelly Müller and friend Ollie Cavana established Bonny Co - a platform built to create connections and normalise mental health conversations.
"It amplified my desire to help as many people as possible," Kelly tells Yahoo Lifestyle, calling the loss of her friend a "life-altering" experience.
"In the week between Michele’s passing and her funeral, many of us came together and shared stories and memories of our friend as well as the challenges we’d faced in our own lives," she adds.
"I realised there was so much power in storytelling and that part of the isolation and overwhelm we feel when we’re faced with adversity or great change is that we think we’re the only one feeling that way. And I realised that’s not true.
"We all have a story. We have all faced adversity. But we still shy away from sharing the depths of our own truth."
Prior to the pandemic, Kelly and Ollie were actually planning to launch a platform supporting people with the transition into parenthood.
“We had planned to develop a booking system where families could book doulas or home helpers to lessen the mental, emotional and physical load of postpartum and beyond," Kelly explains.
"We felt a real need to normalise the challenges that parents go through - and to offer an alternative to the designer baby toys and outfits that well-meaning friends and family offer when the baby is born...we wanted to create a space where it was easy and convenient to turn for help. If such places exist already, they’re near impossible to find!"
Born from a desire to make support accessible and relevant
But after losing Michelle, they decided to broaden the scope.
"Ultimately, whether it’s the transition to parenthood, a career change, family trauma or any and every other scenario, if our emotional and mental wellbeing feels stable and strong and protected, all of those situations feel a little easier to manage and navigate," Kelly says.
"Our aim is to help others to navigate a less lonely path to wellness. While each is unique and individual, we hope our readers can recognise in the stories of others that they’re not alone.
"I might not be able to change the ‘system’ but I can help to change perception, which in my opinion is just as important."
Bonny Co is a platform that aims to create safe spaces for people to share their stories. It also offers a Directory of brands and businesses that can support the different pillars of wellbeing (financial, occupational, mental and social).
Kelly says they believe that maintaining mental health is no different than maintaining physical health.
"Just like we all have physical health, we all have mental health too - but the narrative still feels like ‘mental health’ is a dirty word, as if ‘mental health’ means that there’s something wrong," she tells us.
“Just like we go to the gym, or even to the dentist to keep ourselves healthy and thriving, finding ways to effectively manage our own mental health is equally as important.
"At Bonny Co, we think of our mental health as a spectrum - thriving, coping, struggling and unwell - and perhaps if we can normalise looking after ourselves at the thriving and coping end, we won’t get as many people in desperation at the other end of the spectrum.”
Bonny Co into the future
Bonny Co's vision is to continue to normalise adversity and individual stories, and to support mental wellness by offering tangible support that helps to lessen the load.
"We have had such incredible feedback so far so now it’s about working out how we can build on our vision and start to reach, help and support more people," Kelly says.
Bonny Co is not run by mental health professionals and doesn’t provide advice, however on the platform you will find a place to learn about other’s experiences and hopefully feel less lonely and more connected.
Mental health support for yourself or a loved one can be found by calling Lifeline on 13 11 14, Mensline on 1300 789 978, or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800. Online support is available via Beyond Blue.
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