Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2018 Finalists

What Matters 2018 Finalists

2018 What Matters? NSW/ACT Year 11/12 Runner Up




Frensham School, Mittagong


Words. The myriad words sprinkled across dictionaries and thesauruses and the sea of our subconsciousness. They can pierce a heart and heal it. They are everything of what we were, and are, and will be. And though there are so many of them - though the convoluted web of our vocabulary inhales and expands - it tapers to a powerful point: we have so much to give that's just brimming on the tips of our tongues.

It's ironic that what I hold closest to my heart and what I have the most to say about initially left me ... well, speechless. I knew what I wanted to say and I knew how to say it. It was the unease of sharing that held me back. The knotted hesitation in the pit of my stomach compelled me to stop and really think. Why did I wait? Why should I wait? 

I realised, as my fingers lingered over the keyboard, that I'm a product of a society that is attuned to holding back; to waiting. We accommodate our fear indifferently because we are too scared to face it. We are accustomed to reluctance because it is easy. The greatest tragedy of this? We all suffer for it. For a world that talks so much, we never really do.

So, I speak up now for all of us: friends, family, parents, children, siblings, neighbours. I speak for you.

Our silence is suffocating us.

It is estimated that more than 450 million people suffer from a mental illness. It's difficult to write the type of statistic we skim over, because these people are known and loved. They're the person you shook hands with. The man you smiled at in the street. The wide-eyed child you pushed on the swing. The sister you embraced last week. They're the people who are rendered mute by the world's stolen voice, swimming in our own wordlessness.

I am not oblivious to the great courage takes to muster the right words; to construct the right sentence. What we've learnt to overlook, however, is the strength we foster within ourselves. It grows with us. We all have it. We have the power to change so much by simply speaking out. The worth of our voice can be measured in a rare smile, or the look of relief in eyes you never had the courage to meet.

Even though a great majority of the world is affected by mental illness, our uncertainty is dividing us from helping each other. Subsequently, this gap widens until the sufferers can't hear us - especially when they need us most. We covet history's greatest speeches and scriptwriters, but somehow, we've forgotten the value of ourselves. Your words mean the world to someone. They're priceless in the hands of those who care for you as deeply as you love them.

I want to see a world that is dauntless in the face of mental illness. I want to hear a world that speaks with raw honesty and concern. I want to talk in a world that has been waiting for words for a very, very long time.

Find someone, and say, 'Tell me. I'll help you. I love you.'

I'm listening.


Leach-Kemon, K. (2018). Visualizing Mental Illness Worldwide. [online] Humanosphere. Available at: http://www.humanosphere.org/global-health/2013/06/visualize-mental-illness/ [Accessed 2 May 2018].

2018 What Matters?Jenna Beck