Introducing Gary Fahey
We welcome our newest advocate!
By 30 he ran the protection team for the Australian Prime Minister and by 38, the office of the Australian Federal Police Commissioner.
Silently struggling, by 40 his 10 year path to self-destruction was complete.
Gary Fahey spent 18.5 years with the AFP, holds a Masters Degree and qualifications in Health Science, expertise in Strategic Intervention and Neuro-Linguistic Programming, but fighting back from losing almost $2million, his career and his reputation would teach him more than formal education ever could.
Gary calls on his unique experience and expertise to coach individuals and teams in high pressure fields manage mental barriers for high performance.
Gary will be speaking at our upcoming Australian & New Zealand Addiction Conference on the Gold Coast on the 7th of June 2021.
Read on to find out more about Gary, his upcoming book release as well as his mental health program Strong Men'd.
Why is mental health/wellbeing important to you and what made you want to become active in this space?
For over 10 years I battled a major depressive disorder and gambling addiction that cost me almost $2 million, my career, my reputation and very nearly my life. For most of that time I struggled in silence, knowing something was wrong but not knowing what, and knowing even less what to do about it. It was through listening and learning from others that I was initially able to begin a process to own and understand my own condition, seek and accept support, build systems and fight for something better. Finding a better understanding of the underlying issues and science behind my own mental health battles gave me the belief that they could be overcome. As that process continued I found greater faith that not only could I overcome my mental health battles, that I could reach a new and previously unimaginable potential.
It is understanding my own pain, the silent struggle and the toll it took that has built a desire for that experience to not be in vain. It is the success I have found, the systems I have built and the strategies that have worked that compels me to share my story with others in the hope that, no matter where they might be on my spectrum, a part of my journey will resonate enough for them to ask more questions, seek and accept support and begin to focus forward in bettering their own condition.
As Fyodor Dostoevsky said “there is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.” Becoming active in this space helps me believe my suffering will be worthy.
You worked for the Australian Federal Police for 18 years, what has your experience been in dealing with mental health issues on an executive level?
I have a very firm belief that organisations are genuinely and conceptually committed to dealing with mental health issues in a supportive and productive manner (both for the individual and the organisation) but, as Mike Tyson famously stated, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. Conceptual commitment and moral expectation can easily be challenged in the face of cultural conditioning and self-preservation in particular in alpha dominated organisations, and ultimately the true test is elicited when employees feel as comfortable to present with mental health issues as they do with physical ones. Adequate policies and procedures are a positive step, however active acceptance, the sharing of experiences from organisational ‘heavyweights’ and equal treatment without backroom prejudice or slander is a construct only created through positive cultural change and clarity of organisational identity across the workforce.
Your program, Strong Men’d, focuses on changing the way men – especially men in “alpha” positions – manage mental health. Do you think the stigma surrounding mental health in those positions has changed over the last few years, or is it still very much an issue?
Mental health, particularly for those in alpha/successful positions is most definitely still an issue, as is the stigma surrounding it. While there is certainly a greater voice being attached to it’s acceptance, strong cultural conditioning over more than 100 years has inculcated a sub-conscious response, reaction and resentment in men’s understanding of their own mental health issues, let alone societies. Broader initiatives ‘meeting strong men where they are at’ in terms of language, image, delivery and substance that speaks to them is the key in rebuilding confidence within men that their strength and place in society is not hampered by mental health issues and a practical process exists to rebuild their mental strength and wellness.
We heard you’ve got a book being released soon – any sneak peeks you can provide us?
Externally Bulletproof, Internally Brittle is the story of my silent struggle with mental health issues, the ‘impenetrable’ façade that protected a fragile interior, my ten year race to rock bottom and the process I built to drag myself back from the brink. I am living proof that Strong Men Struggle, often in silence and often alone, but I am also living proof that you don’t have to be special to breakthrough and find a greater success than any you’ve had before. Externally Bulletproof, Internally Brittle will take readers behind the eyes of what it feels like to suffer a major depressive disorder and severe addiction, the destruction it can cause when left unabated and the triumph that is available when you are willing to commit, compete and complete for your life.
What does becoming an ambassador for ANZMHA mean to you?
It is a great honour to be considered and accepted as an ambassador for ANZMHA. As an association committed to building understanding, support and networks, the ANZMHA is central to providing a platform for a wide range of resources, specialists and experience to improve mental health conditions across the globe. It is exciting to be able to use my story, help build and develop these networks and create a greater reach for the work of the ANZMHA. Selfishly, the ANZMHA provides an opportunity for me to continue to grow my own knowledge in the mental health space and allows me to broaden my own understanding to continue to grow as an individual and mental health advocate and coach. As an ambassador for ANZMHA I am committed to being available to share my struggles, my strategies and my success in any way that serves and supports its mission.