BY EMILIO LANERA
A La Trobe University student, whose alter-ego is hip hop artist Fruity Lex, is hosting a webinar this week to help people tackle their “mental struggles” from “anywhere that [they] feel most comfortable”.
Vulnerability Via the Web is scheduled for May 8 at 7pm as a Facebook live stream.
Luke O’Brien, who is studying a Masters of Social Work, had numerous mental health charity events planned throughout the year, all of which were cancelled due to COVID-19.
The webinar will be Mr O’Brien’s first time hosting an online event.
“I was struggling really bad at the start [of the pandemic]...I had lost a lot of my purpose,” Mr O’Brien said.
“I really wasn’t well, so I got back in touch with my psychologist and started building more structured days.”
Mr O’Brien has struggled with a depressive disorder, panic attacks and suicidal ideation.
He is now an ambassador for Positive T Shirts, an organisation that aims to combat youth suicide.
“I started having panic attacks when I was 19. I was a first year tradie apprentice then and I was getting a lot of anxiety and panic attacks at work and trade school,” he said.
“I wouldn’t talk to anyone about it…I would just go out and drink and forget about it.”
He sought professional help in 2016, only after he had a breakdown on his birthday while he was at work.
“I was at work on a trade site and I just started to cry. I just kept crying and I didn’t know what was going on,” he said.
“I will never forget it because it was my birthday, but it was also the start of me getting better.”
Vulnerability Via the Web will include discussions about self harm, panic attacks and being a tradie with mental health issues.
Mr O’Brien – or, rather, Fruity Lex – will perform some spoken words.
“Since we are all at home at the moment, the whole objective of this event is to reach out to people who were like me five weeks ago not getting out of bed, and say something that makes them realise there is a way out,” he said.
Disability worker Johnathan Hartland first saw Fruity Lex at The Yorkshire Hotel last year and has gone to a number of his events since.
“He was the first person I saw discussing mental health through music and I thought it was so amazing,” Mr Hartland said.
Fruity Lex’s music has helped him to open up about his mental health issues.
After a home invasion in 2012, Mr Hartland suffered from psychosis which resulted in him being hospitalised.
“It got to the point [where] I was hearing voices and I would walk the streets at night because I wanted to escape it all,” he said.
“I got admitted to Maroondah Hospital after the cops picked me on the street after walking across a set of lights in front of moving cars.”
As a result of his psychosis, Mr Hartland developed OCD which he continues to battle with.
“There were times last year I wanted to kill myself because of my OCD," he said.
“The obsessive and compulsive behaviour was so draining. I would be like ‘I don’t want to live like this. It would be easier to die right now'.”
Mr Hartland said right now he is in a “good place”, using quarantine to rest and recover.
Vulnerability Via The Web is free to attend, but a link will be provided for people to donate to mental health service the Black Dog Institute.