HAVING a mental breakdown at 20 was a catalyst in Emma Thomson’s career.
“It took a long time to have courage to talk about it, I suffered enormous shame around the stigma, but I think people relate to me because I come from a human point of view not a clinician’s point of view,” says the Hunter wellness advocate.
Now 34 and a mum of three, Ms Thomson most recently ran the Merewether gym business Empowered Mums Studio and has now launched her business Em Is For You. It offers a raft of workshops on resilience and mental health wellness for children and adults.
With a Bachelor of Pscyhological Science and an Advanced Nutrition diploma under her belt, and as a qualified personal trainer and pilates instructor, Ms Thomson also offers life experience in her teachings. She was studying primary teaching at the University of Newcastle when she had a psychotic breakdown that led to her hospitalisation then 24-7 care by her mother upon release. Put on various medications, she gained 30 kilograms and, once her brain stabilised, began to research and understand her illness.
Falling pregnant with her first child she ceased medication - against doctor’s orders but with the blessing of her family - and made major life changes to improve her mental and physical health.
She completed a psychology degree and with her husband Jason ran her gyms, where she noticed a demand for more education and prevention strategies around mental health issues.
She wrote a curriculum to help children deal with stress, social media pressures and more and is contracted by the Department of Education and private and Catholic schools to run presentations.
Her workshop content is tailored to her clients. With parents, she underlines how they must have a healthy relationship with themselves to have better relationships with others. With children, she helps them accept what she wishes she knew earlier in life – that life isn’t easy.
“I find that when kids can accept life is challenging they are more open to develop skills to help them cope with those challenges,” she says.
In the corporate space, her teachings are aimed to boost mental health and communication to lead to better, more productive workplaces.
Ms Thomson has self-published her book Once Upon Insanity, a personal account of her mental health journey.
“I wanted to bring hope to people who have suffered and I wanted to bring hope and resources to the supporters of those who suffer; my family went through an enormous amount to help me,” she says. “I wanted the community to know they are not alone – it’s such a prevalent problem in many families.”