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Burpees for mental health awareness: Bridie’s story

This article appears in: Balance work, life and study, Exercise and Sport Science
CDU Student Bridie is passionate about Mental Health Awareness

Burpee master, Northern Territory Young Australian of the Year and CDU Alumni, Bridie Duggan, is on a mission to raise awareness about mental illness prevention and to spread the word about the positive impacts physical activity can have on mental health. She candidly shared with us how a personal tragedy inspired her to set Australia on the path to mental health wellbeing, all while gaining incredible success along the way.   

 I’ve always wanted to become a physiotherapist

Adventurous Bridie hangs off a cliff face

I’ve always wanted to become a physiotherapist because of my love for sports and interest in the human body. University was my only option to get there: I knew that I would be more hireable if I had completed a degree. I decided to study a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science through CDU as a pathway into physiotherapy because my one goal is to be one of the best physios in the industry.

Whilst studying my Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science full time, I also took on my Certificates III & IV in Fitness, also through CDU, to become a qualified personal trainer. In parallel, I was working at a gym teaching classes, participating in multiple sports, and learning from as many different health professionals that I could fit in my busy weekly schedule.

CDU Student Bridie  on the beach at Sunset

Sadly, in 2015 I lost a childhood friend to suicide. When I heard what had happened I just couldn’t believe it: like most suicides, I never saw it coming. I knew I wanted to show my support to my family, friends and home town of Katherine, so I started a fundraising initiative to raise awareness of, and reduce the stigma around, mental illness soon after the loss.

With my connections in the fitness and sporting communities, the knowledge I gained through my studies at CDU, and my love of physical activity, I decided to pick an exercise that most people groan about: the dreaded burpee! Doing 10 burpees is hard enough, but I had to pick a number that would make people’s heads turn. That’s where I got my inspiration to complete 100 burpees each day for a month.

CDU Student Bridie doing a Burpee

The more burpees I did, the more people wanted to get on board and help spread awareness as well. I decided to approach a charity called LIVIN to help promote my fundraiser because my friend had mentioned he thought they were spreading a great message before he passed away. It was because of this that I also chose to donate the $27,000 I raised through the initiative to LIVIN.

As a result of the success of my burpee challenge fundraiser, I was awarded the NT Young Australian of the Year. This meant a great deal to me because winning the award affirmed that I was on the right path in spreading the message that physical activity can have a massive impact on a person’s mental wellbeing. Being awarded NT Young Australian of the Year also gave me a bigger voice to create awareness about mental illness and suicide prevention.

CDU Student with then prime minister Malcom Turnbull

A researcher based in Sydney heard about my fundraising efforts and my award and approached me to assist in a study that investigated the link between lower back pain and depression. I worked on the project for more than six months, helping to provide life coaching services to more than 40 study participants.

Preliminary results from the study have shown a strong link between a person’s mental health and their physical ability, which has further confirmed that I want to continue to spread the message of achieving positive mental health outcomes through participating in physical activity. 

CDY Student Bridie  smiling in her LIVIN hat

My top tips on maintaining good mental health:

If you or someone you know is in an emergency situation or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services on 000. If you're currently enrolled at CDU, you can book a confidential and free session with the CDU Counselling team to discuss anything that may be affecting your wellbeing. 

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