Lachie Samuel is an accomplished podcaster and motivational speaker, with a passion for encouraging emotional vulnerability in men. Determined, zealous and incredibly generous in sharing his story to help others, he has faced many hardships, but has happily reached an “amazing” place in his life. He lives in Perth with his wife and two daughters – one born during the coronavirus lockdown – and is cherishing this period as a time to slow down and enjoy being present with his family.
Lachie was raised in New Zealand, in an area of South Auckland he says was rife with poverty and crime. His childhood was not an easy one. With his father exposed to horrific crime on a daily basis as head of the region’s homicide squad, Lachie explains that in his household, there was little emotional expression displayed or encouraged. This, compounded by ongoing childhood trauma, led him into a troubled young adulthood where he developed addictions to ecstasy and alcohol. “I was having it with meals,” he says of his ecstasy habits between the age of 19 and 20.
At 20 years of age, after an altercation with a friend, he decided to move to Kalgoorlie to work in mining with his brother. At the time, he explains, he felt it was “easier to run” than to deal with the issue upfront. The sudden transition from the verdant green hills of New Zealand to the vast red dirt plains of the Australian outback was striking, yet not quite as jarring as the culture shock. On his first day in Kalgoorlie, Lachie says he was taken directly to the local strip club, immediately immersed in the unbridled “booze culture” of the hyper-masculine mining town.
For 4 years on-and-off, Lachie worked in the mines in a fly-in-fly-out role. While he says he was feeling increasingly angry and unhappy throughout that period, at the time he had “no knowledge whatsoever of mental health or wellbeing”. With no way of comprehending why he felt the way he did, and no mental health support from the company he worked for, when he was forced to resign as “risk mitigation” in 2014 he entered a dark period of suicidal depression.
In leaving the world of mining FIFO work, Lachie met his now-partner and moved to Perth with her. It was there he found inspiration to share his experiences with childhood trauma and mental health struggles, and he began recording his podcast: Open Up with Lachie Samuel. After 2 years and over 100 episodes, this podcast has a devoted following and has become Lachie’s passion project. “I learn a lot from it,” he says, “it’s really powerful sharing people’s stories when they open up for the first time”. ‘Open Up’ features people sharing their own experiences with abuse and mental health; while Lachie says that, at first, this was a heavy emotional load for him to carry, he now loves facilitating these discussions and allowing people to be vulnerable.
Understandably, the podcast has garnered broader attention in Western Australia. Lachie now works with the FIFO industry, delivering workshops on mental health and collaborating with mining companies to develop better education and support channels. Specifically, he wants to help men working FIFO to show their emotions in an industry which does not condition them to be comfortable in opening up. Indeed, Lachie’s greatest aim is to stop the culture of men suppressing their feelings, because “the world’s problems all stem from toxic masculinity”. He is confident in this goal: “I have absolutely no doubt that I’ll achieve it, by sharing stories of struggle and how it was overcome”.
But how do we stop these toxic behaviours and negative emotions? While anyone struggling is advised to speak to a specialist, Lachie has a key piece of advice to begin improving emotional expression: focus on mindfulness. Developing the ability to step back and analyse our thoughts without feeling pressure to act on them is a “really powerful mental shift” in any mindfulness journey, he explains, as it provides control over any errant thoughts.
Lachie’s experience with FIFO workers “doing it tough” in isolating circumstances has, he believes, provided him with a useful frame of mind for the current coronavirus pandemic. “Things are really good!” He’s relishing the extra time at home for self-reflection, slowing down and taking breaks as he needs them, when usually he finds it hard to stop working. Having a baby during the pandemic was quite strange, he says, with strict hospital protocols and visiting restrictions. However, being at home for the first months of his newborn daughter’s life has been a blessing; Lachie says fatherhood is “raising my awareness of my goals, and what I need to work on to be better”.
With an inspiring journey from childhood trauma and substance abuse to a formidable career in mental health awareness, Lachie Samuel is a true testament to willpower and the benefit of harnessing our minds for positivity and self-improvement. To find out more about Lachie and his podcast, ‘Open Up’, visit his website.
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