Mo Bro James sits in barber chair.
Mo Bro James starting conversations around mental health.Image by: Nick Manuell
Mo Bro James sits in barber chair.
Paddle boarders gather on the beach for a photo.
27 February 2023

James’s Story: Coastline, community and conversations

3 minutes read time

Meet James, a Mo Bro on a mission to create conversations around mental health through his event L2F4MH – Lorne to Fairhaven for mental health.

It all sparked from the moment we lost Finley.

Losing a close mate to suicide back in 2019 rocked our community and turned my world upside down. Our friendship group and I remember feeling lost - asking ourselves what more we could have done, and did we miss the signs. A few mates decided they wanted to run the Melbourne Marathon in Finley’s honour and raise funds for Beyond Blue. I was out with a fractured tibia at the time from playing footy – I remember being so happy for them and overwhelmed watching them do it. However, I was also disappointed that I couldn’t participate with them.

I wanted to create something powerful and channel my grief into something that could make a difference. That night I sat down with a piece of paper and started mapping out the challenge idea that was swirling around my mind. Lorne is the first place I’d ever met Finley, where I had lifeguarded and somewhere I felt I had really crafted an identity – so it had to start and finish there.

" It took losing Finley for me to acknowledge that how I’d been feeling for a large part of my life - was not normal and not ok. "

Next, I needed to figure out where the turnaround point would be, and since this was meant to be a marathon alternative it needed to be significant. I couldn’t say let’s paddle board to Tasmania, as that would be a bit too wild - so I settled on Fairhaven as this was close to a beach house Finley liked to holiday at and felt like a nice way to connect with him. 2020 rolled around and as the year shaped up, we went in and out of lockdowns. The only thing that really kept me going was training for this challenge – and it became something I narrowed my focus on and worked towards.

I think a key challenge men face today is that there is still a large stigma around trying to be tough and show a brave face. It's a challenge as people hold back from having those talks, but over time I feel like this is slowly changing. However, it takes that extra push to take those conversations from friends and family - to conversations with a mental health professional.

If doing this challenge could prompt others to have convos and realise that they may need some support, then it’s all worth it.This motivated me to create an Instagram account (@L2F4MH) and a safe space where mates, friends and the wider community could unite to be a little more vulnerable, look out for each other and raise awareness for mental health.

Two years on and I have been blown away by the passion, community spirit and conversations that we have started. The larger the team the smaller the issue and how we band together as a group for the L2F4MH is how we are all learning to approach the larger issues such as mental health in our lives.

The 2023 L2F4MH takes place on the 4th of March and is a 14km board paddle, 32km ride and 16km run, starting at Lorne Surf Life Saving Club which moves back and forth between Lorne and Fairhaven.

Created in memory of Finley Dale whom we lost to suicide in 2019, it was designed to create change and positive conversations around mental health. This year there are over 30 paddlers, 20 riders and 25 runners - all of whom have their own reasons as to why they want to participate and create a conversation around mental health.

Support L2F4MH and James’s efforts to raise funds and awareness for men’s health.

Local featured barber shop: Dr Follicles, Richmond VIC.