Building Connections to Improve Mental Health
30 April 2018 at 8:27 am
Rahul Seth is the founder of the Perth Active Depression Support Group, which aims to bring people together through recreation. He is this week’s Changemaker.
Seth is a chartered accountant who – after experiencing issues with his mental health – decided to form the Perth Active Depression Support Group in June 2016.
PADSG looks to improve the mental health of participants through recreational activities, and in less than two years has more than 1,400 members.
Seth also works as a support worker for mental health group HelpingMinds, and last year was selected as one of the Foundation for Young Australians’ (FYA) 2017 Young Social Pioneers.
In this week’s Changemaker, Seth discusses how PADSG was formed, explains why not for profits don’t need to be across every social media platform, and details his fascination with Brené Brown.
What drew you to work in the not-for-profit sector?
Not for profits are something I’ve always valued and it comes down to my high school roots. I was the top accounting student at my high school and I thought accounting would be a natural fit for me.
So when I entered the workforce, I started work as an auditor for RSM, a mid-tier accounting firm. It’s a pretty stressful job being an auditor… and my mental health started deteriorating around that time, so it wasn’t the best experience. Then I moved to taxation, but I got made redundant and went through eight months of unemployment and that’s when I got diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
But I kept going back to not for profits because it was always something I valued, and it came back to exposure I got at RSM where I got to see a lot of entities like schools, associations, for-profits, not for profits, government etc. And if you take a backward step you realise they’re all the same. They’re a bunch of people forged together by a common cause… the only thing that changes is the nature of the people they attract and their end goal.
So not for profits are all about doing good in the world, and that’s what is in my value system. And if you realise that a for-profit and a not for profit are essentially the same thing, it makes it easier to work in a not for profit.
How did PADSG come to be formed?
I started the group in June 2016, during my lunch break. I was in a bit of a lull because I’d been doing a lot of activities and finding that my social circle was getting a bit smaller. And I always envisioned having a group that was more than just talking about mental health and was about being proactive by doing some sort of activities.
And what I found was there wasn’t anything in the market that existed for it. And so I jumped on Meetup – the social networking site – during my lunch break and created the group. As soon as it got started I had 100 people sign up before our first event and 300 people at the three month mark. It’s now at 1,441 people I think.
What kind of activities are run in the group?
We run a range of recreational activities which are all led by volunteers. So for instance, we had a volunteer recently do an origami night at a cafe. It’s all channelled through the Meetup website where everyone is, and I try and encourage my volunteers to do an event once a month. Because I know personal connection is what brings people together.
I’ve been reading a lot Brené Brown recently and there’s a really good quote from her that says “connection is ultimately why we’re here”.
Why do you think the group has become so popular?
I think it is just because there is an underlying need of what we’re trying to offer, just that genuine hope and connection and we’re a service that runs on nights and weekends, when most other service providers work only during the working week. So we’re providing relief for our members when there’s no other opportunities around.
While a lot of NFPs utilise a range of social media, PADSG has cut back to only one platform. Why did you decide this?
I burnt myself out by doing it all and didn’t find anyone to actually delegate tasks to. But most of the other social media wasn’t getting us enough traction. Meetup is effective and you don’t need to be everywhere and everything these days. You just need to find the most effective channel.
And while we were doing an Instagram post a day, a Facebook post a day, it wasn’t really generating leads. So it was just an option for me to simplify my time and [despite this] we have kept growing.
You were part of FYA’s 2017 Young Social Pioneers program. What did you get out of that experience?
Friendships were the most important thing that I got out of it. I was very lucky to get in the program because I turned 30 that year, so I just scraped through because I was 29 when I did the application. But I’ve made [wonderful] connections with some of the judges, the board members and the students.
It was a once in a lifetime experience that I couldn’t ever get again and it is really nice to know that there’s a bunch of young people wanting to change and make a difference in the world. To connect with them on a personal level was really amazing.
What are your future goals for the support group going forward?
I want to eventually get it to a point where I can get an organisation to let me work on it full-time, because I don’t want everything to rest on my shoulders. At the moment I feel a little bit like Bernie Ecclestone calling all the shots on my own. My goal is eventually to run it as an entity with the help of a support organisation.
What are your personal professional goals for the future?
I work with HelpingMinds which keeps me busy and active, and I’ve recognised that’s where my passion is, in mental health and recovery. I want to eventually make my full-time job working on the group but with the help of an organisation, because being standalone is good but you’re not accountable. So that’s what I would love to do.
What do you like to do in your spare time away from work?
Photography is a passion of mine. I love nature photography and all that kind of stuff. Formula One racing is also really good. I’ve picked up reading books and swimming recently as well. I’m reading a lot of books and doing a bit of exercise, so a bit of everything.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m quite liking the books of Brené Brown. She’s got some really good thoughts. I also read a lot of social enterprise books. I’ve got Chapter One by Daniel Flynn, which is a really interesting book on Thankyou water.