What is The Sam Project?
The Sam Project is focused on connecting with all Australians, bringing both an awareness and an understanding of mental illness in order to remove the stigma and to empower all Australians to live the most mentally and physically healthy lives possible.
Husband and wife Scott and Florence Harrod sold all of their assets to fund the Sam Project, enabling them to travel indefinitely throughout all of Australia, including the most remote parts, in their purpose built expedition truck.
They embarked on this journey 12 months ago and have travelled more than 35,000 kms and spoken to many thousands of people.
What was the motivation for The Sam Project?
One in five Australians on an annual basis will experience an episode of mental illness and a massive 70% of those people, largely due to the stigma and lack of understanding of mental illness, aren’t able to discuss this with their family or friends and/or are unable to seek help. Those percentages are even higher in rural, remote and indigenous communities.
Tragically, suicide is the biggest killer of young Australians!
Scott and Florence decided they needed to proactively do something about this significant problem, hence selling everything they owned to fund the Sam Project and get on the road.
What does The Sam Project do?
Everywhere they go, Scott and Florence are liaising with the local communities to provide education talks to community groups, businesses, schools etc about mental health. They have partnered with the Black Dog Institute (BDI) who are a not-for-profit organisation and world leader in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorders and the promotion of wellbeing. The BDI provides the Sam Project with information and collateral to run their education and awareness sessions.
In order to foster the link between physical and mental health, Scott and Florence also offer free exercise, yoga and meditation classes.
Finally, in conjunction with the community talks, yoga and exercise classes, the Sam Project offers the opportunity for everyone to drop in for a coffee and a chat at their mobile cafe. This provides an environment where people can come and talk in a safe and relaxed manner.
Journey so far
The Sam Project hit the road in May 2016 and first went to Winton in outback Queensland where the drought had been severe for many years and help was much needed. Scott, being an ex-farmer, was able to connect on a deeper level with the farmers they met and more than anywhere they realised how the stigma of mental illness is entrenched, and how the simple act of allowing someone to talk about it to someone else, without judgement, can help ease the weight and encourage people to find help. After Winton they went southwest through western Queensland into South Australia to reach the northern end of the Flinders Ranges. They then came West travelling to Broken Hill, Wilcannia, Cobar, Dubbo en route to Sydney. They then headed up the North Coast of NSW and Queensland all the way to Townsville, then West to Tennant Creek, down to Uluru and then across the Simpson Desert to Birdsville. From Birdsville, they went east to the Sunshine Coast and then south to the South Coast of NSW, stopping off in Sydney for the Christmas/New Year period. Since January 2017, they travelled south to Melbourne and then to Tasmania where they they spent all of March and April before heading back to Sydney for a few weeks. They will be making their way South again as of the 1st of September and spend October and November back in Tassie.
Lessons so far?
That the statistics are real and that for each person their circumstance is unique. There is a common theme though, they are finding that people all over Australia are desperately searching for understanding. Understanding of themselves, understanding from others and understanding of others. Sadly, what is prevalent is judgement rather than understanding and that judgement largely stems from a lack of education about mental illness and the stigma sadly associated with it.
At their cafe there are no probing questions from Scott and Florence; people stop by to get a coffee and a chat and on many occasions, both men and women have openly broken down and cried in their arms because Scott and/or Florence were the first person that they have spoken to about what they have been or currently are going through. There is enormous power in just allowing someone to talk and this can be the spark needed to enable that person to talk to others, including seeking help if necessary, and the empowerment to move forward.
When Will they Stop?
They don’t have any plans to stop yet. In fact, after eleven months, they feel like they have just scratched the surface. The desperate need for education about mental health and people’s trust in sharing their stories continually inspire them to keep going. There are still plenty of places in Australia to go and more people to meet.
How can people help?
This is a question that many people ask us and the answer we give is; please help us get access to more people. This can come as easily as liking and sharing our facebook page as well as encouraging your friends to do the same. Also, if you are associated with a school, hospital, community group, services or sporting clubs, local businesses etc we would love to hear from you. We have all of the media packs and collateral to assist in organising these events. At the events we can do any or all of the following; Education sessions, yoga and mediation classes, exercise classes and/or opening our cafe. Please note that everything we do is free of charge
Scott Harrod is an entrepreneur and business developer, creating several successful businesses from fruition. He then made the conscious decision to forgo his business career and become a large scale farmer on the Liverpool Plains of New South Wales.
Florence Harrod was born in France and migrated to Australia 15 years ago as the International Human Resources Manager of a global company. Florence became a professional business coach, running her own business for 8 years and also pursuing her love of yoga to become a yoga instructor in addition to her consulting business
Bombala Times - 2/05/2017
ABC Northern Tasmania - 27/04/17
ABC news - 20/02/17
Radio interview ABC Canberra - 20/02/17
Radio interview ABC south east NSW - 1/02/17
Bega Valley shire council - 1/02/17
Palm beach real estate blog - 15/12/16
Story of the week on Vittoria website - Nov.2016
Daily telegraph - 23/03/16
The land - 12/03/16
Open forum blog - 12/02/16
Black Dog institute website - Jan.2016
Florence Harrod - Director