Finding their voices

Often friendships can form from the most unlikely places and that’s true of two locals, Hannah Swinnerton and Jesse Crosse, who met accidentally and have formed a special bond. Hannah and Jesse run a campaign to help youth speak out about bullying called Speak Up For Change and already have over 600 people following them.

For Hannah, who was bullied at school, and Jesse who had suffered his own mental health issues, this is a project very close to their hearts. Peninsula Essence talks to Hannah and Jesse about their own personal struggles and a motivation to help others.

“I met Hannah by chance at a seminar for suicide prevention,” said Jesse who works in mental health at Frankston Hospital. “We started talking and didn’t even realise we lived so close to each other.”

Hannah, who has been an advocate for anti-bullying since high school, had already started work on the speak up for change campaign and it was a natural fit for Jesse to take up the torch as well.

People don’t realise how powerful their words are and how they can affect someone. 

“I was always bullied at school which was horrible. People would take my photo and put an animals head on the top of it, but one day I decided to fight back. I was in year 12 and wrote a speech about what it felt like to be bullied. I read it out to the whole school and realised I just needed to speak up. This was how the idea for the speak up for change campaign came about. I realised if people spoke up we could change things,” said Hannah. “When I told Jesse about it, he wanted to be involved as he had been bullied also.”

For 32 year old Jesse and 24 year old Hannah, helping others get through similar issues they themselves have faced is most important and both have since found their calling in mental health.

“I work in mental health in a psychiatric ward helping people through their mental health diagnoses,” said Jesse, who had dealt with his own issues and was on both ends of the scales with bullying and being bullied as a child. “I really did struggle myself through a mental health diagnosis, became involved in alcohol at a young age and drugs and found my way back thanks to health professionals and the support of my family. Now I am so thrilled to be helping with the Speak Up For Change campaign and we have a lot of good projects in the pipeline.”

Since December when the campaign started, the pair have already taken enormous steps towards helping others with get togethers and some fundraising events on the calendar.

“We had a great beach workshop a couple of months ago which raised awareness about bullying in the community and allowed us to see how many people wanted the forum to speak up for themselves. It was fantastic. Now we have a fundraising night with the local Lions Club to raise money for our other programs,” said Hannah, who is organising weekends, workshops, and self-esteem raising programs. 

“People don’t realise how powerful their words are and how they can affect someone. Your words can lift up or put down. It is up to you,” said Jesse and Hannah.

To find out more about the Speak Up For Change campaign, check out Facebook Speak Up For Change Campaign.

Peninsula Essence – June 2019