“This system was built for us not to exist in,” says singer-songwriter Ziggy Ramo in the latest episode of Tune-Ups. The system he’s referring to is generations of colonial oppression against Indigenous peoples within both Australia and abroad.
Generational trauma is a real thing and something Ramo—of both Aboriginal and Solomon Islands heritage—has considered while grappling with mental health. A natural poet, Ramo is insightful when it comes to unpacking these things.
“Until we know our own truth and know both sides of the story, it’s difficult for me to be happy,” says Ramo. “There’s definitely still not enough respect for both Indigenous artists and Indigenous people. We still live in a society where Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous culture aren’t given the same value. Like, to truly love something, you have to know it. We still don’t when it comes to Indigenous people and Indigenous culture in this country.”
In his early 20s, Ramo was already extremely talented at his craft. However, he also struggled with both anxiety and depression.
“I’ve always gone through patches of ups and downs,” he says. “Something that I lived with—that I thought was a normal thing—was suicidal ideation.”
His chronic depression came to a head when he was hospitalised for his own safety. But this tipping point was also the beginning of Ramo’s journey towards healing.
“It’s really difficult to tell the people that you care about most that you might not want to be here,” he says. No stranger to therapy, Ramo is a major advocate of reaching out for help. “What I’m going through right now has to do with my lived experience. I went through the process of: ‘Where do I go? Who do I call? For Support Act to create a space for us to receive help is amazing.”
Support Act provides a culturally safe experience for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, crew and music workers through the establishment of the Support Act First Nations Dedicated Support Line. This is a free and confidential service specifically catered to First Nations people in providing help with their mental health and wellbeing.
Like many people who struggle with mental illness, the key to moving forward came from realising that depression and anxiety are not something you necessarily need to ‘beat’ or ‘get over.’
“I really struggle with the concept of resilience because it’s forced upon you,” says Ramo. “I don’t want to be resilient. I don’t want to ‘buck up and push on forward’. If we just normalise the concept of resilience and pushing forward, it normalises the idea that it’s all OK. I don’t believe this system serves me or my people. But it doesn’t need to be that way.”
Ramo’s journey with mental health is still ongoing. But along the way, he’s learned that it’s healthier to incorporate strategies that allow one to deal with feelings of anxiety and depression on a rolling basis. As the saying goes, you don’t slay the demon. You learn to control it.
“I take my mental health day by day,” says Ramo. “You can never control the thoughts that come into your head but you can control whether or not you put the welcome mat down. But I wouldn’t change any of it because it’s who I am.”