Bryn Dickson is a creative DJ, passionate mental health advocate and member of local charitable organisation, Chewin’ the Fat. Chewin’ the Fat is a Melbourne collective which hosts dance, music and arts events and donates all the profits to different mental health charities. They aim to foster inclusion and generate discussion around mental health to normalise the topic, especially for young locals in the creative scene.
How are you really?
Really? I am fluctuating between going well or thinking that I’m going well and not actually coping, I think it varys. There’s things that have happened that I thought would probably make me a lot happier like getting a job, or certain opportunities but I’m still feeling the same way sometimes about my mental health or my life. So it goes to show that you can always base your happiness on something else but it doesn’t automatically mean that you will be happy.
Thanks for your honesty Bryn. When we are fixated on the destination we can lose ourselves in that journey. Could you tell us about Chewin’ the Fat?
Chewin’ the Fat is a Melbourne events/initiative/forum where we host dance, music and arts events and donate all the profits to different mental health charities. We aim to create a sense of inclusion, and generate discussion around mental health to normalise mental health especially for young, locals in the creative scene. While it’s becoming more normalised to discuss mental health and the problems that have always been there in society, we are still learning how to have these conversations and we’re still so far off where it could be.
For young people they’re at this point in their lives where they’re figuring out who they are, starting to head down different paths of what they want to do, and mental health is really prevalent. We wanna have these fun social events and mixers to show people no matter who you are or what environment you’re in, mental health is always important. It’s just a way to show people that you can still support and care about something and be free and have fun at the same time. For something that’s a really serious and sometimes taboo topic [mental health], Chewin’ the Fat brings it to light in a casual, manageable way for a lot of people. It feels like it brings a sense of fun, creativity and inclusion that is also dear to a lot of people.
How did the idea for Chewin’ The Fat come around?
There’s always been charitable events in the arts but for us what really sparked Chewin’ The Fat was one of my best friends and the Chewin’ The Fat crew’s good friend, lost an almost silent battle to depression and took their own life a few years ago. We were really affected by this, as are so many millions of people around the world. We wanted to have a one off event and donate the profits, so we rallied around our mates. Something that started as a one off event, really resonated with a lot of our friends and we got some positive feedback. From there it slowly formed into what it is today. It’s not as big or broad or layered as we want it to be but it’s also a lot more than we were expecting at the time.
Thank you for sharing Bryn. You’ve managed to take something that was so dark and painful and create something that has helped so many people through your donations, but also through the conversations and community that you have built. What does ‘mental health’ mean to you?
For me it’s easy to say things about mental health in a positive sense or encourage people to look after their mental health. But when it comes to my own I can be pretty shocking. Mental health to me is the thriving feelings of joy and sadness and all these certain emotions that impact our thoughts and the way we behave, and the actions that we take. The comparison is taking care of what your physical health would be, but for your brain and the way it creates thoughts and patterns, sleeping, mood, love, hate, anger. There’s always a scientific and psychological definition, but mental health always means something different to everybody and for me I think it’s trying to learn how to take care of myself and respect myself, and in doing so, learning to do that to other people as well.
There’s the analogy that you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you can help others. How does that play out in your life?
It’s definitely something that I’m still working on. We are as humans so imperfect and to me no one can say that they’re always happy because we can’t always control how we feel and to feel sadness, sorrow, depression, these are things that are part of life.
Something that doctors and psychologists often recommend for people struggling with mental health is to help other people, as for a lot of people that creates a sense of fulfilment. A lot of people who struggle with mental health are quite attentive, kind and empathetic. That’s what I see in my friends and the people that it’s affected in my life. Mental health isn’t forgiving and it doesn’t discriminate, it affects everybody. But I feel a lot more joy or I find it a lot easier to listen to my friends and talk about the things that are going on in their life and how it might be affecting them and maybe tell them what’s worked for me and what hasn’t, then I do applying those things. Sometimes it seems like an uphill battle [working on self] but knowing what works and seeing that succeed in somebody else can create a sense of fulfilment or joy with yourself and a sense of reassurance, that if other people can do it then I can do it.
But I do also agree that you can’t pour from an empty cup and it goes from the same sense of trying to help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves. You can do as much as you can for someone else that’s struggling but at the end of the day the change has to come from themselves and that also applies to ‘you’. You can do anything, go to therapy, know the practices that you have to put in place, but ultimately you have to want to change which is never easy and it’s never black and white.
That can be a really hard realisation, but this idea also gives control and autonomy back to us, which can be really empowering. How does music intersect with Chewin’ the Fat?
We are all musicians or DJs in a sense. We love music and it is something that is borderless, restrictionless, there’s almost zero barriers with who can connect with it. It’s such an easy way for people to engage with a topic like mental health and no matter what field you’re in and especially for creative people like musicians or those within the creative industry mental health is something that is really prevalent. [Music] is almost like a glue in a sense that it can form many different relationships and foundations of creating this message of supporting mental health publicly but doing so in a really fun and enjoyable way. Especially to all of us, music is so different, to so many people. For some people music is their entire lifeblood, that’s their career and whether they express themselves or create things that keeps them alive. Or for a lot of people it’s a way to harness or engage with emotions or express themselves or unwind after times of stress or even certain music that helps people sleep. It has so many different uses and connections within our brains. Not everything is always doom and gloom, whether it’s our mind, depression or our anxiety is telling us that. There’s simple things that can bring a lot more complex joys. I think for us and myself especially, that’s something like music.
Thank you so much for your time Bryn. Your honesty, openness and courage is inspirational and we thank you and the crew at Chewin’ the Fat for the incredible work you continue to do. See you on the dancefloor soon.
Check out Bryn’s latest mix here
Keep up with the crew at Chewin’ the Fat here
We acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which this interview took place, the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin Nation. We honour their elders past, present and emerging and recognise their significant connection to the land, the waters and the community.