Bryan Peck – Founder, Director, Instructor
Bryan’s passion for Mental Health started in 2010 when he began his Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology) at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC). In 2012, Bryan underwent instructor training to become a nationally accredited Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Instructor, providing Mental Health First Aid Trainings to students and staff at the University of the Sunshine Coast, CQUniversity (Brisbane and Noosa Campus) as well as the Sunshine Coast Council, STEPS Group Australia, and Integratedliving. He obtained the MHFA Master instructor in 2015 and has conducted over 50 2-day courses to over 700 people.
Bryan has a lived experience of mental illness, battling Depression for the past 7 years. He has provided a brief description of this path below.
In 2018, Bryan commenced a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree with the Sunshine Coast Mind and Neuroscience – Thompson Institute, investigating the neurobiological effects of engaging in adventure-based physical activity in Australian military veterans diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
In 2017, Bryan obtained the qualification as a Stand Up Paddle Boarding Instructor in order to combine the benefits of Stand Up Paddling with Mental Health programs. Bryan designed and commenced Brave Face’s Mental Health Stand Up Paddle Program, which is an 8-week program combining Stand Up Paddle Skills, outdoor blue-space activity, social support, and mental health learning.
Bryan’s additional experience in writing and delivering workshops include:
Mental Health Awareness
Stress Management and Reduction
- Crisis Intervention in Mental Health
- Beginner Mindfulness
There is so much to say about this process, so I will attempt to keep this story brief. As with many people’s stories, there was always a hint of some form of depression throughout my life. But it wasn’t until around 6 years ago that I really began to battle with mental health. The extreme of the lower lows became overwhelming – more than I had experienced previously. Looking back I could notice classic changes of difficulty dealing with increasing complexity with life – family, study, work. My wife and I definitely experienced challenges within our relationship. I also started struggling to be motivated about simple things – the reasons I used to have to do the things I really liked, had vanished. Studying Psychology helped in great ways, but it wasn’t until I was just about at the breakdown point that I went and saw my GP.
All options were placed on the table, which I always appreciated. The path I took was to get me back to health, and my life, asap. I started medication, a basic antidepressant, and made appointments with the psychologist. Medication I really appreciated for giving me back my life – feelings, emotions, the ability to think again. This was vital for me to be able to sit down and chew things over with the psychologist. I could actually think and converse about many things that were so complicated. I also started to scale commitments back a bit, so they could be managed with less pressure.
Over the years since, I’ve had a depressive episode about once per year. Times that seem to just creep up on me. Thus, I have worked on being as aware as I can of what stresses are in my life, managing the load. I’ve also employed many recommended strategies to ‘manage’ thoughts and emotions, pressures and torments – each strategy going some way to building mental and lifestyle supports that stabilise the ship. My list includes journaling, exercise, medication, shifting diet, psychologists and social workers, volunteering, art and photography, alone time away from home, reading and listening to good talks, and mindfulness and 10 day silent meditation retreats.
One December just over three years ago, to combat the lethargy, and finding myself stuck at home on the sofa most days, I decided I needed some kind of project where I would make something out of wood. Looking through many avenues including kayaks, canoes, and small boats, I stumble on Stand Up Paddle (SUP) boards. I had only heard or seen something about stand up paddle boarding at the time. As a strategy to get me off my ass, and doing something that would seem enjoyable, it really hit the mark.
Jump about 4 weeks later, and around 60hrs of work, I had a timber SUP board. I bought a paddle and put the SUP in the water at cotton tree. INSTANTLY AMAZED. I really enjoyed the feeling of standing on the water, and travelling around. Jump 3 years later, and I have paddled on average 4 times per week. Being on the water, Ocean Therapy as it is called, has really done me well. At first I started flatwater and racing, then ocean down winding, then surfing. SUP became for me the default. Rather than ‘resting’ on the sofa, I would go for a paddle. Every time I got off the water, I knew I felt different than when I was sitting at home an hour before. And most people I have spoken to feel exactly the same. More recently I started outrigger canoeing, a different dynamic, but certainly again engaging the therapy, peace, and calm of being on the water in the river, on the ocean, or surfing the waves.
SUP (and ocean therapy) ticks all the boxes for me that make a daily difference. It’s hugely accessible. It’s a physical and mental activity; with varying environments; on the water; outdoors; meditative; relaxing; social; challenging; fun. I can do it most places, and most days – by myself or with people – ocean, river, surf, canals – and this makes it always interesting. I have been pleasantly addicted since I started, and it has bleed into my life in positive ways.
With all things I’ve done to manage depression, I always thought they’ve acted on the interaction between my thoughts, feelings, lifestyle, environment, social connections, physical health, and family – make positive changes in one area, and they will effect other areas of my life. They’ve always been a challenge, and somehow we just keep moving forward regardless of what we are battling. Mental illness and health is my focus, and helping get people back on their feet, and stay on their feet, is my passion. I know how hard it can get. I started Brave Face to help people to keep on the ‘brave face’, in the ups and downs, sadness and angers, to just try something – with all that needs to still be done every day with work and study, home and family, and health – to just keep moving, and enjoying the water.