About three years ago I was living on the Central Coast of New South Wales in Australia. Rhys was living in Lismore going to Uni. We had mutual friends and we’d hang out on weekends partying and going to music festivals. We’d go for drives through Terrigal and sit at the Skillion chatting about all things life.
Everybody who met Rhys would say the exact same thing: Rhys was always there for anyone and everyone. Whether you were a long-standing friend or had just met him five minutes ago, he would sit you down and talk about anything.
I moved to London for a couple of years but we stayed in touch. When Rhys was travelling through the States and I was in Bali we touched base. Said we’d catch up for dinner when we were both back in Sydney and exchange travelling stories. Unfortunately we never got the chance.
Rhys took his life on the 24th of October.
In the days after, I remember trying to think of something I could do for him. Maybe to deal with the pain of it all. I remember thinking that he had a Mo. I Googled the Movember Foundation because while I can’t grow a Mo, I wanted to do something to raise awareness around men’s mental health.
When I logged on, I came across Move. You could create a team and plan to Move throughout the month of Movember. I thought it was pretty cool that women could get involved and do their bit. I set up a Mo Space, then posted a picture of myself and Rhys at a festival on Facebook, reaching out to my friends. After everything that had happened I thought it would be great to raise $5,000 in memory of Rhys.
This post was shared throughout our networks before going viral and achieving our whole month’s fundraising goal within three days.
When the post started getting attention online, we managed to get an article on Buzzfeed.com and the UK Daily Mail. Rhys’s story began to reach people in the UK and America. Every morning I would log on to see new comments. Some were personal to Rhys, others were sharing their own personal stories with mental health. An American guy donated one dollar and wrote, “I just wanted to get your attention to say what you’re doing is amazing. Depression is something I have suffered from and is very close to my heart so thank you for raising awareness around the world.”
It was quite overwhelming, but it also really helped me deal with my feelings. It felt like a way to communicate with Rhys. I am sure it helped others do the same.
Two things kept me going through the entire thing. Seeing the incredible amount of money that was raised. And, every time we would get another donation, Rhys’s mum would message me and say ‘Every dollar that’s donated really makes me see how much he was loved. Thank you so much.’
My biggest goal for 2016 is to raise awareness about why people are doing Movember. Any guy can grow a Mo but not everyone realises the difference that it makes.
More and more people are starting to talk about mental health and depression and the stigma is, I truly think, heading towards being broken. Obviously, it still has a long way to go but the more we open up about it and the more we discuss it, the closer we get.
Rochelle Nicole, Mo Sista since 2015
Visit Rochelle's fundraising page