Home-School or No-School

Home-School or No-School

Home-School or No-School

My battle to keep my daughter safe from bullies almost cost me, my own life.

19 Feb 2020


If you or someone close to you is struggling with their mental health, please call lifeline on 13 11 14. If you or someone you know is immediate danger call 000.

Being a parent isn’t an easy task… by any means of the word. It is emotionally, physically and mentally draining at the best of times. But for the most part, we wouldn’t change it. It is, simply put, THE hardest thing you’ll ever do, but the most rewarding too. What an oxymoron!

But when you put into the equation bullying for your child too… it can royally stuff with your mental health!
I had the most beautiful, happy and outgoing child. She was a joy and loved life. We would have ‘giggle fits’ where we’d be in hysterics together, laughing, then laughing at our laughing! We’d both come out of it exhausted with tears rolling down our faces. The light that radiated from my girl was unmistakable. She was pure and blissful. There was a sparkle in her eyes which warmed my heart!
Fast forward to High School. Everything started off ok… for a few months, and then it hit. Teenagers started throwing around words they couldn’t possibly understand, drama, boys and nastiness. Right in front of my eyes, I saw my beautiful shining light slowly start to dim. She lost what made her unique and beautiful and she started changing into something I didn’t recognise. As I watched her, my heart started to break. I couldn’t quite believe what was happening, and I felt so powerless to change it.
Through all my efforts, talking to the school, talking to my girl, trying to explain to her that bullying comes from their insecurities, and aren’t a reflection on her, I felt helpless, lost and utterly defeated.


Sitting back, knowing that my girl was hurting and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it, my world felt destroyed. As a parent, we’re taught to always take care of our children… to put them first. And here I was, sitting there not knowing what to do, where to turn or how I could change the situation. I was frustrated…with the system, with myself. With the parents of these children who were being so horrible to my girl. 

Now, I now my girl isn’t perfect… she has at times said or done the wrong thing… but she has a pure heart and soul that would never intentionally hurt someone else. So, to see this empathetic, sensitive and loving child, be threatened, belittled, hurt… sent me in a direction I never wanted to go.

While battling depression and anxiety from my own past of DV, not being able to help my daughter when she needed me most was the hardest thing I have ever been through. And started to send me on a downward spiral.
Somehow, we managed to get through grade 7. Surely this was the end of it. Just teenagers finding their feet in the big school… testing their boundaries. But, unfortunately, we were wrong. It was just the beginning.

Year 8 rolled around, and everything started off well. My girl had great marks, seemed to be enjoying high school. For the first term or two. Then, again, it all started. The drama changed from week to week from kid to kid. Everyone seemed to be in the line of fire. Every week seemed to be a different person on the ‘out’ but it seemed to be the same culprits over and over again. It got to a point where my daughter was physically fearing for her safety, and after jumping through multiple hoops to try and get her into the next closest public high school and STILL being rejected because we weren’t in the ‘zone’, after breaking down into tears in the office of this other school because my daughter was scared and I didn’t know what else I could do, after calling the Education department and them not being able to do anything because this schools rules were totally within reason…I decided to pull her out of school for the last term of grade 8. While I knew this wasn’t a great option, it was better than her feeling afraid constantly.
Being a single mum, I couldn’t afford to just up and move. I only worked part time which managed to just cover my bills… sometimes. And it seemed that this was the only way I was going to change schools for my girl to anywhere remotely better than our current school. The school itself was useless. The teachers just didn’t care. The principle’s saw it every day and never followed up. They made a fuss about bullying but never followed through. We were at a standstill. So, while I worked, my beautiful 12-year-old stayed at home. I tried everything I could think of to get her into a better school, and came out of it feeling like the worst parent on the planet. I couldn’t even provide for my girl, the most basic of needs… education. I was broken. I cried all the time. I felt useless. It started driving a wedge between my girl and I, my feeling like I was failing, and her desperately clutching at straws to make every effort to go to another school… to the point she even told me to sign away my parental rights to a friend who lived in the zone! We were fighting constantly, and underneath all I wanted to do was make things better for my girl. The spiral down continued for me when my girl told me, at 12 years old, that she didn’t want to live with me anymore. That she just wanted to live with her best friend in the right school zone. Every struggle Id faced as a single mum, every battle I had won to get us to where we were, crashed down around me. I had failed. My biggest fear in the world seemed to be in front of my face… my daughter hated me and didn’t want to be with me.
This lasted a few weeks, which was agony for me. I drank too much and cried all the time. I just wanted my girl home with me. I felt judged for not forcing her home. I felt useless for not being able to give her what I so desperately wanted too. I felt like a failure for not having the money to move. I felt lost because my everything didn’t love me anymore. My depression kept just going further and further, until I stood up one day and said enough is enough and went and picked my girl up. The weeks that followed were horrible. She seemingly hated me. I so desperately wanted her to love me again. We talked… well, more like I talked. She shut down even more. Her anxiety started getting worse… my anxiety started getting worse. Until we hit Christmas / New Year and she went to a friend for the night… I drank too much and almost took my own life. Had it not been for the ‘goodbye’ message I sent to my girl that night (which to this day I have not been able to bring myself to go back and read) I quite possibly wouldn’t be here today to tell this story. BUT I am so grateful for hitting that darkness… because it was the thing that brought my daughter and I back together. She came home, just as I was about to attempt to take my own life. And thank god she did… because now, as I look back with a clearer mind, I can see just how horrible it would has been for her to find me the next day. How much pain and trauma I would have caused? But at the time… it felt like the only option.

After that, I reconnected with my Psychologist (that I had been seeing since I left DV) and started working on myself again. We spent some time together, my girl and I… mending our relationship. We re-built ourselves back to a place of love and strength.

The next year of school arrived and she decided she wanted to try that school again. So… we tried. That was last year. And by far, the worst year of all. With multiple physical threats and almost follow throughs, with so many calls from school saying that my girl was at the office scared for her safety. With multiple attempts to talk to the principles, the deputies and the teachers, only to find them completely unhelpful and uncaring… we made the decision that for grade 10… we’d home-school. Although I had looked into this in previous years, I hadn’t found one that I could afford. No-one had told me any other way until a dear friend told me that if there is bullying involved, a certain home-school program was free! Which was music to my ears.

So, as we enter 2020, we are excited again for the first time in a while. I have made leaps and bounds with my own mental health, which in turn has helped my girl to start shining again. I have created a business which is all about empowering women (and teens when I can get there!) and have invested in myself to complete speaking and coaching courses so I can share my story and use it to help others. My businesses Empower me Happy is a blessing… and in itself is helping to reconnect my girl and I, through the planning and implementing of events and soon to be retreats! My girl is different now… but she still has that sparkle. The one that makes my heart sing. We are looking forward to this new start. And even though it will be hard for us, with me working, running 3 businesses and her home-schooling, the program we have found does it all. They log into a portal with real teachers who teach them from afar (thankfully cos I don’t even think I’d pass grade 5 these days! Lol)
We have just started, and although a few starts of year hiccups, this seems like it just might work! We are scheduling ‘mummy / daughter’ time in and making sure we do even the simplest of things. We are connecting, and my mental health is so much better. I still have ‘sad’ days… but all in all, my days are great. I use the most amazing essential oils to get through all my ups and downs. I am so grateful that I have a company that I can rely on for pretty much everything in my life! I now sleep a full night… I have oils for my anxiety and I am starting to explore and travel for myself again. Something I hadn’t been able to do for many years!

So here’s to a new year, a new start and a whole new world!
And here’s to the battlers, who despite everything seeming to be against them… they fight on. You are this world true champions.


Written by:

Claire Oliver | ©Claireoliver2020 | ©thegreyspaceprganisationlimited2020

To my shining light.

To my shining light.

To my shining light.

11 Feb 2020

Going through mental illness is tough, for sure there are times we are ok and can manage life and we can work, be a good partner and a good dad. For the most part though mania, depression, hyper-sexuality, agitation and anxiety (just to name a few) kick our ass. They make us irritable, they make us sad and they make us damn near impossible to live with….

But they do.

Our family, our friends, our partners…. They are our unsung heroes, our light at the end of that tunnel that sometimes can seem to go on forever.

This is my thank you, not just to my shining light, but to all of you who are the shining light for those of us who message you panicked in the middle of the day over the smallest things. For putting up with us when we fly off the handle at something as stupid as the dog looking at me funny and you still hug me and say its ok when I break down and then apologise later because I have no idea why I gave a shit about the dog looking at me funny because as if a dog can even look at you funny… yes we do this kind of shit.

My thank you for our shining lights that when we are sick pick up the slack by still going to work and then coming home and cooking and cleaning, because the world is unbearable for us and to be honest we don’t even see the things that need to be done cos we are to engrossed in fighting inside our own minds.

My thank you for stepping up and being both parents and raising our child because ive run off from my home, my responsibilities, my marriage and being a father, everything that I hold dear because I am  in a manic episode and done the Harold Holt. You are my shining light.

Thank you that even in the times I was the sickest, so bad that it made you, yourself unwell and you couldn’t stand the sight of me, you would spend the night on the phone, keeping me alive when no one else would.

My thank you for being my solid rock and holding me tight when I want to die and that is all I can think about, thank you for staying with me till the evil inside that wants to kill me subsides to its normal dullness instead of its suicidal rage. You have saved my life on more occasions than I can even count. Thank you for being my shining light.

This is my thank you to you for everything you do, for sharing this mental illness with me when you could have walked away at any moment. Thank you for doing it with a smile on your face and never judging me. You are my shining light.

To all the shining lights in the world, shining bright for those of us who cannot shine for ourselves. I thank you. You are the most amazing people in the world and we love you.

Written by:

Ben Russoniello | ©benrussoniello2020 | ©thegreyspaceorganisation2020

The month that was July and a little bit of August

The month that was July and a little bit of August

The month that was July and a little bit of August

3 Aug 2019

It was a big month for the grey space organisation culminating in a massive day today, we’ve been working on lots of things in the back ground kicking lots of small goals. A milestone for us was when we went over our final draft of our charity constitution we are almost there! The end of the first era of The Grey Space Organisation is almost over, that period in time so many hopeful organisations and charities never get through. It’s been a wild ride during this time lots of ups and downs big ideas as well as some pretty shitty ones, some set backs that put me flat on my face both external and internal with some of our own mental health issues. We almost gave up more then once but each time we tried something or someone manifested to spur us on, the universe believes in what we are doing and she won’t let us stop.

We got our first member to join Emma, Kate and myself on this adventure to change the way we look at mental health, illness and how we navigate recovery after crisis, Shanna, who’s experience in the peer support field is second to none. Her wealth of knowledge and experience as well as connections within the space will bring a whole new level to our organisation. With Emma and Shanna already off and running with new ideas and with that it means me letting go of the reins of something that I’ve poured my heart, soul and countless tears into just a little bit. But I know I couldn’t be putting these parts of the organisation into better hands.

As well as Shanna coming on board our first 2 major sponsors chucked their hat into the ring, AAM (Australian Asbestos Management) and Sajen Legal. Both leaders in their own industries throwing their weight and their faith behind us. To both of these supporters from the bottom of our hearts thank you, your generosity has blown us away.

We paid it forward! We set up shop at a local cafe, chosen in particular because an act of kindness was shown to one of us there by a stranger who gave a coffee in a time where the shit was actually hitting the fan with my mental health and I was being loaded into an ambulance. So for no other reason then to put smiles on peoples faces we teamed up with the living project and handed out notes of hope and free coffee for an hour, Scotty if you are reading this thank you for letting us take over your cafe for an hour you’re a dead set legend. I met some amazing people in particular a couple on from the shire and one a sunny coast local. This “newsletter” is for you guys because you asked for it and I’ll be carrying it on from now on as a monthly recap of what we get up to. I really hope you get in contact with us in the future you are our kind of people, beautiful souls.

The living project joined us today as well for what was the first of many crossovers we will do with them. We had an absolute blast doing their thing with Tash running around pinning little notes of goodness all of the place. And as Tash and I both don’t know how to shut up, watch this space for a possible mental health podcast that will be raw and real and we will deal with everything from addictions to overbearing parents and how that effects our mental health and how we can deal with it in a healthy way. And there’s guarantees idiocy from us both to make it entertaining.

Connections where made with another foundation run by some amazing carers and as always the amazing Mez, who seems to always show up and support us giving us her knowledge and experience that’s always invaluable and with all of us together we hope will be the start of our hive. Many little bee’s working together to make a big difference. An actual difference in crisis and recovery. The forgotten parts of mental health in our over saturated prevention awareness age.

I am truely blessed to be surrounded by such strong women who are passionate about change within the space. However I do feel so outnumbered and hope as time moves forward more men step up, guys we can’t reach men and help men if those who can do not step up to the plate and lead by example.

 Over the past 6 or 7 months we’ve met a lot of people, we’ve helped a lot of people. We’ve been cut down, had false promises, been told we won’t last, that we will never change the system or that the system works perfect and we don’t know what we are talking about. To all of those people here is a big fuck you! Because people are screaming for change, people are struggling through Crisis and recovery and falling back to crisis quicker then you can say “get stuffed”.

We are here to stay we are here for the people who need it most. We are going to change the way we look at mental health recovery.

We are The Grey Space Organisation!

Written by:

Ben Russoniello | ©benrussoniello 2019

I have so many questions and segregation better not be the answer to any of them.

I have so many questions and segregation better not be the answer to any of them.

I have so many questions and segregation better not be the answer to any of them.

15 Jun 2019

Bear with me with this one. It’s a strung together collection of thoughts, questions and me grasping at straws cos I have no clue if this feeling I have is stupid or if it’s real and we should be worried. Mental health effects us all black, white, Puerto Rican, Chinese, men, women, children, gay, straight. No one is different in its eyes it simply can’t see race, religion, gender or sexual preference.

Minority races fight to be treated equal

Women fight to be treated equal

LGBTQIA fight to be treated equal

The mentally ill we all want to be treated equal to

So, why the current almost unnoticed segregation of gender, race and sexual preference in mental health awareness. I’m certain that this is unintentional but it Seems to be happening.

I’ve seen LGBTIA groups fight to be equal my entire life but now I have seen media campaigns that prioritise their mental health issues as worse then a straight persons. Sorry but we are all the same when it comes to mental illness.

Men’s mental health in Australia is in a bad way, but what happens while everyone is focusing on men? Do the women in our society get brushed aside? Do we end up with a reversal of the suicide statistics because men’s mental health has seemingly been prioritised over women? I for one do not want the women in my life feeling like they have to promote men’s mental health so much to the men around them that they forget about themselves. I don’t want the women I love and cherish to be left behind in the pursuit of men’s mental health. Sorry men’s mental health is not more important then women’s. We are all the same when it comes to mental illness.

And youth mental health this is super important I agree and teaching our young ones how to manage life and give them the tools to cope with what’s thrown at them is a must, but when funding for mental health services for people over 25 has started to dry up because all the money is being funneled into youth mental heath. Where does that leave the thousands and thousands of people over 25 to go to when there is no funding there? And why if all the funding is going into youth mental health are mental health organisations turning away kids in need?

When it comes to our mental health we are all the same it doesn’t discriminate one little bit. We may have difference experiences or situations that have caused us to have these issues but we most certainly ALL have the issues. Being 22 or 78 shouldn’t make a difference, being indigenous or white Australian shouldn’t make a difference and why the fuck can’t we just be Australians, being male or female shouldn’t make a difference.

We all have challenging things we go through in life, being a black gay man who’s been estranged from his daughter for 14 years because her mother didn’t like the fact you had the guts to be openly gay, has been through hell and back, as well as suffers with mental health issues is pretty tough, but so is being a Caucasian male who went to hell and back, who struggles with being bipolar and is living with a suicidal mind.

Those two examples that’s me and one of my closest friends. We don’t look at each other as a black gay man and a straight white man we don’t compare problems either. We just look at each other as people with problems and we support each other the best possible ways we can. And it works well. We are brothers from different mothers we have different circumstances but the same pain. We are the same.

I think my point is that we need to start looking at each other as humans instead of a class or race or a sexual preference. We need to start bringing some humanity back to the way we treat mental health and more to the point each other.

I often wonder, and those of you reading that understand mental illness should really understand where I’m coming from here. I often wonder when watching a men’s mental health add on tv what the women in our society who are struggling think…..Do they feel forgotten? Do they feel like there’s no one there to help them if they ask because they are being bombarded with mental health ad’s for men, and that’s the services that are there so what’s the point in asking because there’s nothing for me? but I’ll make sure I tell hubby about the ad and make sure he is ok……as men, the women in our lives give us so much and now we are taking them for granted and their mental health is being forgotten.

I’m guilty of this. Maybe this blog is my shame and guilt for taking the women in my life for granted……

Those of us who are mentally ill are all the same, slightly different diagnoses but we all struggle just the same. The same treatments and therapy’s are used to help us. So why are the media campaigns splitting us up. Segregating awareness. Instead of men’s mental health why can’t it be all mental health awareness.

Like I said this blog may not flow the way they normally do but it’s different, the most part of it’s been my thoughts that have gone through my mind over and over for a few weeks now some a little badly strung together maybe to get them out, maybe to see if anyone else agrees with me.

I don’t have the answers, just an unsettled feeling that if we don’t look at people as people then some of us are going to be left behind.

I hope what I’ve said hasn’t been taken the wrong way by anyone. I believe to battle the beast we need to be united. As people.

We need our humanity back…..let’s all just look out for everyone around us.

Let’s hit mental health head on together for humanities sake.

Written by:

Ben Russoniello | ©benrussoniello 2019

where did everyone go?

where did everyone go?

where did everyone go?

16 Mar 2019

Its sad when people lose their lives. A few days ago, a crazed group of terrorists, and make no mistake they are terrorists… They shot 49 people most of them losing their lives. And yes, this loss of life was terrible, I felt pain for such a senseless loss of life and so did the entire world. So many lives lost….

Let’s go a little closer to home, Queensland, the state I live in. The murder rate in Queensland Australia for 2016 to 2017 was 38 murders across both years, 19 a year. 38 Tragic lives lost, the number makes us cringe, each murder on the news makes us sad it doesn’t matter if it was a drug related murder or a domestic violence related death it’s sad and we have an outpouring of support and hope and donations to families to help them through the tough time.


That number though is low in comparison to car crash deaths in QLD Alone, 250 people die in motor vehicle accidents every year. 250 sets of families and their friends affected by tragic accidents. Again, we pour out support and donations and we talk about it we have ads on TV telling us to slow down, don’t drink and drive as well as the fatal 5…. All to try and stop the senseless loss of innocent life.


One last number. 804.

In Qld in 2017, 804 people died by suicide.


No out pouring of grief by the community as a whole.

No charity hand outs to the families struggling to come to terms with the loss of their loved one.

In Fact, just the mere mention of Suicide and charity and people run away! I unfortunately just experience this phenomenon myself today. People wanting to help a charity fundraiser until the word suicide is mentioned and they RUN….

Why as a community, do we hide from this topic or run when its mentioned?

Suicide is weak! Suicide is Selfish! Suicide is horrible and graphic!

Suicide is confronting and scary sometimes death by suicide can be graphic and brutal and devastating to families…. But so is a car crash and they show enactments of those on the news and in tv ads to slow down or not drink drive.

Its weak, FAR FROM IT. If you have ever met a person deep into a struggle with suicidal thoughts, you will know they are not weak. We as Suicidal people fight a battle in our minds every day, we fight to live, and we fight fucking hard! Those of us who attempt and those of us who succeed we are not weak we fight till our last breath. We lose battles and attempt, and some lose the war and succeed. BUT WE ARE NOT WEAK, WE ARE BRAVE, AND WE ARE STRONG.

Selfish….” that person who killed themselves was selfish! They didn’t care about their family or friends. They didn’t care about anyone but themselves. Selfish cowards.”

Selfish? NOT EVEN CLOSE! In fact, we as suicidal people think the exact opposite, in our minds we are convinced our families will be happier and better of with out us and the burden we feel we are on them. We are not selfish we are sick, and, in our minds, we are being selfless.

I guess what I am trying to say is why? why are we shunned spoken of in hushed tones or run away from? We are not scary! We are sick you do not run away from cancer, do you? no you throw millions of dollars into finding a cure only not everyone has cancer or will get cancer and some of us will be lucky enough to not even be touched by it in our lifetime. Yet every single person alive will have thoughts of suicide. Half of you reading this just scoffed and called me a dick head. Now stop and look back over your life with what I said in mind….

Now tell me not once in your life have you had a thought of suicide. “it’s all too hard, I can’t do it anymore I wish I was dead…” or “kill me now”. All of you just realised that you have had a suicidal thought at some point in your life. Ok so it was tiny and insignificant in your scheme of things, but it was still a suicidal thought. We all have these thoughts it is just to varying degrees.

I heard a story last week about a lady who lived a perfect happy life who in one week lost both her husband and her son… within a week she spiralled so deeply into depression that all she wanted was to take her life……. she survived.

But it goes to show you that any one of us at any point in time can be affected by suicide be it circumstance or mental illness. So, stop treating us like the plague. Bring us into the open. TALK WITH US, help those affected to feel comfortable enough to speak up and say HEY, HELP ME LIVE! We can save hundreds of lives if we just stop being afraid of a word, if we just stop running away. Suicide is not a dirty word and it needs to be spoken about as a community.

We can make a difference by just not running away standing up and talking about suicide.

Written by:

Ben Russoniello | ©benrussoniello 2019