Joseph Lynch says after a lifetime of pain, abuse and mental illness he's finally back on track, thanks to Red Cross' support. When Red Cross came into his life, he says, "I realised the world wasn't so lonely."
Joseph had an abused and neglected childhood, followed by nine years of homelessness and spending time in and out of mental health facilities.
His success in rebuilding has made him a familiar and popular sight around his rural Queensland town, where he rides his unique bicycle and trailer he's built for his lawn mowing business.
Joseph struggled with debilitating depression due to an extremely violent childhood which led to about five years of hospitalisation from the age of 19.
This was followed by five years of homelessness, travelling, sleeping rough in the bush or crashing at shelters and boarding houses at any number of places along Australia's east coast. "I was just trying to sort my own head out and I found that a change of scenery was the easiest way to negotiate the pain."
Then he hit rock bottom.
"The pain got too much and I ended up assaulting a family member, and going to jail. I spent a month and a half in jail."
That terrible time was the turning point in Joseph's life.
"It was only then after hitting rock bottom that I started to go back to common sense and really find my feet."
He sought help to find work. "I was struggling to find anyone who would take me on due to my medical ailments. As well I was struggling with depression and it made a very volatile mix with getting on with life.
"I was referred to Red Cross and due to their encouragement and just wanting to be an ear that listens, they have helped me out a lot. They've helped getting me on courses, helped me with my self esteem; they just genuinely wanted to be there. They had a genuine interest in my life and that was something that had been lacking for quite a long time.
"It uplifted my self esteem. I realised the world wasn't so lonely. It brought me out of my shell."
Joseph says life now couldn't be more different.
"Life is peaceful," he smiles. "For the first time in 12 years I have a house. I have a dog. So it's a major step in the right direction. I'm enjoying it. It's the most normal or close to normal life I've had in such a long time. It's been great. "
Joseph is enjoying doing courses run by Red Cross in small engines and construction. . He also has a small business, doing gardening for people in his town in country Queensland a couple of times a week.
He's built a trailer which tows his lawn mower around on the back of his bicycle, allowing him to work and generate an income.
"It's nothing big but I can have a little bit extra on the side. It helps to keep a schedule and know that I'm not so useless."
With more than 45 per cent of the Australian population experiencing a mental illness at some point in their lifetime, Red Cross recognises that mental health is a state of wellbeing; it is the ability to maintain relationships, cope with stress, contribute to the community and enjoy life.
We help people on their journey of recovery from mental illness, by supporting them to develop skills and confidence and feel a greater part of their community.
Our programs focus on strengths - what people with a mental illness can do. People receive one-on-one support from a qualified Red Cross mental health worker who works with people to set and achieve goals for their lives.
My little business puts a smile on my face knowing that I have contributed to society
Joseph says he feels encouraged…" to step outside myself and encouraged to help others. I take great joy in helping others."
And when things are tough? "It really helps to know that there's someone there and I'm not having to battle through some of the difficult things by myself. Having someone just to listen to it really makes life just that little bit more easy."
Joseph says his Red Cross support worker Errol Rafter has helped him through the darkest times. "We go fishing, play golf; he's been a good person to talk to. He's helped me go through some dark times where I've sought his support going through psychiatric issues."
Now he says he's found peace, he is able to smile, and he enjoys a life that is as close to normal as it's ever been.
And the greatest news of all is that for the very first time, he is planning a holiday.
"I'm going on a fishing trip and that's the first holiday I've organised for myself for a very, very long time. I can go in comfort for a change instead of travelling by the seat of my pants.
"It's a nice notion!"
Photo: Australian Red Cross/Renae Droop