Ashleigh Webb to take on the English Channel

  • Post category:Stories

Alex Ostle, interviews Ashleigh Webb on her planned swim across the English Channel and sharing the Stay Kind message.

 We’ve loved how you have been promoting Stay Kind swimmers on your Instagram posts for your English Channel training swims. Why did you decide to do this?

I saw the Stay Kind swimmers at an open water event this summer, and loved both the print and the message behind them. I recalled the story of the Kelly boys and wanted to support a cause where the values are so closely aligned to my own charity, the Kallan Lodge Library. I have been wearing them as a reminder to be kind to myself during training for the English Channel. I don’t have a naturally positive internal dialogue, especially when stressed, so living that Stay Kind message with myself first is key to spreading positivity.

You’ve mentioned how for an inpatient in a mental health facility a book or music album has the potential to stay with them for the rest of their life. If you’re comfortable with sharing, which particular books or albums have had that impact on you and why?

The Kallan Lodge Library is all about ensuring young people receiving treatment in mental health facilities still get to experience a book or album that makes them feel less alone.

I’m 32, so I am right in the middle of the Harry Potter generation. I was in high school as the last few books in the series were released and would read each of them immediately, in one sitting. I would fall asleep to Stephen Fry reading the audio books in my first year of university. In fact, I re-listened to the whole series during my daily lockdown walks last year. It felt like such an indulgence during a universally tough time that it helped me look forward to getting out for those walks each day.

Missy Higgins would be a heavily featured artists in the soundtrack of my life. She has such a beautiful way of capturing emotions within her song writing. I was 14 when her first album The Sound of White was released so her music has matured alongside my own life. It’s magic to have those types of artists available throughout your teens and into adulthood, who continue to capture what you yourself are going through.

Personally, I honestly sometimes struggle sharing things about my mental health with others, unless they are very close to me. Have you ever found it difficult to be so vulnerable and open with your own mental health? What advice do you have for people like me who are scared to share this with others?

Sometimes it is harder to be honest with the people you love than it is with strangers because it is a much more intimate conversation. It was a struggle to tell my parents that my childhood wasn’t always happy, for a lot longer than they realised. It felt like I was insulting them by revealing that. It also goes against the traditional fabric of Australian culture; putting your hand up to say ‘I’m struggling and I don’t know what to do.’ I’ve accepted that being proud of myself is challenging because it is essentially a counter-cultural act; we aren’t encouraged to be anything but resilient and easy-going.

It will be a long time before the collective shifts to recognise that asking for help is not a selfish act. Supporting people struggling with their mental health is not a modern social burden; it’s part of traditional healthcare. Somewhere along the way we just decided to start isolating and shaming people for it. Being open and honest is a challenge worth overcoming if it makes someone like me feel less alone.

As I’m sure you’re familiar with – Stay Kind is all about spreading kindness! Who is your inspiration for kindness?

My parents Lyn and Mitchell are 59 and 61 and they have been together 45 years this year. They wanted so badly to create a happy and supportive family unit which means they live with such a generosity of spirit towards us kids. You cannot avoid being positively affected once you’ve spent time in their company. They are the voices in my head willing me on to do better, and be better, each day.

 

How do you spread kindness in your life? This can be big things or even small things in your day to day.

Kindness is an outlook as well as a behaviour. Kallan’s parents, Jill and Geoff Lodge (who are on our Board of Directors) have always said that if we help one person then we will have succeeded. I try to remember those words when I’m nervous, uncertain or just in a bad mood. I may not always feel kind but that is irrelevant to how I should behave. That’s what the Stay Kind movement means to me. Being tired, frustrated or annoyed may be minor compared to the invisible thing someone from else might be going through.

Ashleigh Webb

Kallan Lodge Library

Interview by Alex Ostle, Stay Kind Volunteer