Milly Bannister is the Founder and CEO of ALLKND, (including programs GRLKND and Brain Pilot), a health promotion charity connecting youth to mental health literacy.
She's somewhat of a communications expert and a virtual BFF to a 160k+ community, backed by a BA in Journalism+Media/Comms, a Diploma in Positive Psychology and certification in Human Research and Suicide Prevention.
She's currently an ambassador for MG Motor, Modibodi, Ella Bache, Microsoft Surface and has worked with the likes of Sony, Olay, Amazon and Google. Likes to toot her own horn doesn't she? Beep beep! Sheesh.
About the brand: GRLKND is your favourite community program advancing self-belief, compassion and mental health literacy in female-identifying youth, (powered by Aussie mental health promotion charity, ALLKND).
Built with you, your friend, your sister in mind, our all-female team of psychologists and experts have fused evidence-based research (the nerdy stuff) with relatable conversation (memes) to equip you with the knowledge and skills required for peer-to-peer mental health support, crisis or not. We're reducing youth mental illness-related fatalities one brave GRL at a time. Come sit with us already! We'll dazzle you to the core.
Chatting to Milly Bannister, founder of female mental health literacy program GRLKND:
Your top ways to ensure you take care of your mental health – including a trip out on the open road:
Millie: Adding preventative non-negotiables for your mental health is just as important as non-negotiables for your physical health. If we brush our teeth every day, why shouldn't we practice a similar level of care and hygiene for our minds?
It's filling up your own cup to avoid running on empty, and there are plenty of ways to do it. The point is to do it often. A great example of free and easy self-care is simply carving out specific time and space for reflection - non-essential, destination-less driving can be a great way to relax, achieve mindfulness, contemplate and even problem-solve.
Otherwise, you've got body work (like yoga and stretching which can be great for emotional release), nature and wide-open spaces for grounding and relaxation, and experiences like workshops, delicious food or exercise classes.
If you're past this point and your go-to self-care practises just aren't cutting it, maybe you need more than an hour or two of actual rest.
Don't underestimate the power of a change of scenery and a short-term getaway in the form of a road trip. It can absolutely be invigorating, restoring and really great for the mind.
Why car conversations are a surprising way to get people to open up:
Millie: 'Car therapy' is most definitely a thing. If you think about it, some of the healthiest and most intimate conversations with our loved ones happen in cars.
There's something about the perceived sense of freedom and detachment from reality in a moving vehicle, or even a parked one, that makes this space perfect for weightier conversation to unfold in a natural way.
Facing forward and focusing on the view ahead instead of making eye contact with other passengers can make it easier to self-express, share and connect.
When I'm behind the wheel of my gorgeous MG3 hatchback, I'm really able to feel out the space it provides for reflection and connection.
PS: Maybe it's a good thing that we are the ones that teach our kids how to drive, too, because that's 100 (albeit sometimes painstaking!) hours we have to connect with them.
Your suggestions on how to start conversations around mental health with loved ones early:
Millie: Pick a private and comfortable place and be relaxed and friendly in your approach. My sweet little MG3 has been perfect for both passenger conversations or even phone (hands-free bluetooth) ones - it feels cosy and safe without being cramped.
Ask open-ended questions like "Is anything on your mind?" or "What's been happening?" to initiate the conversation gently. You can also point out specific behaviour you've noticed, such as "I noticed you've been less chatty lately, is there anything you'd like to talk about?" Show them that you genuinely care and want to know what their experience is like right now.
Listen actively with empathy and an open mind. Don't be preoccupied with what to say in response or recollections of your own experiences and stories. The most helpful thing you can do is listen judgment-free and show support.
Don't expect to solve their problems on your own. For complicated problems, offer your support, but also encourage your friend to seek help from a professional. Stay positive about the role a professional can play in helping them. You can see some of our recommended services here.
Make plans to follow up. Set yourself a reminder to check in on them in a couple of weeks, or make concrete plans for a call, a picnic or a long winding drive. Make sure they know that if they need support in the future, you're somebody who they can reach out to.