Hold space for yourself and others – men’s mental health with Joel Sardi - Forward Ability Support

Hold space for yourself and others – men’s mental health with Joel Sardi

Men’s Health Week ran from 13 – 19 June 2022. Forward Ambassador, Joel Sardi, reflects on the importance of routine and connecting with a supportive network you can trust.

Throughout my teens and early twenties, my physical health was always at the front of my mind. Maintaining a strong body was a key focus until a spinal cord injury changed my life.

Before my injury, my mental health was never something I put much time or thought into. I was a soldier, living interstate and independently. I did not know it at the time, but everything that was transpiring in my day-to-day life; routine, exercise, socialising & the discipline that my job required would ultimately evolve my identity and purpose. My mental health was cruising midline along the continuum at a steady pace. A spinal cord injury transformed all of that. I could no longer work out independently or nearly as frequently as before my injury. This loss of independence and change in my everyday routine became the major catalyst for my ongoing battle & intrigue with mental health. My mental health is now a direct reflection of my weekly routines & my diet, the controllable things in my life as a C-5 quad.

Image: @joelsardi

Eight years post-injury, I have learned to understand, as hard as it may seem, that it’s OK not to be OK. Life is not the smooth journey we want it to be. Those living with an SCI can most definitely attest to that. With that being said, there are ten things I can do for everything I cannot do due to my injury. These ten things are the absolute foundations for my mental health. The beautiful elements of relationships shine through for me, the care and support provided by loved ones, the mates that treat me the same way they used to, and the strength I can provide to people just by listening and providing an ear for them. You can create extraordinary relationships within your network that few people in this world can replicate by simply listening and holding space for others.

Tell the person closest to you if you feel flat, isolated or a bit off. It may not seem desirable to have a lengthy conversation, but put it out there, “I don’t feel myself; I’m a bit flat”. That’s where I began. Self-awareness was the most challenging part, but it forged my path towards consistent sessions with a psychologist and check-ins with my mates. SCI or not, taking care of your mental health and supporting those around you with theirs is so important. The gym does not have to be confined to the weights room. Expand your gym sessions to a conversation with a mate and ask them, “How are you really feeling?” It could change their day or even their life.