Wayne Schwass


AFL great, broadcaster and commentator, salesman and serial social-impact-entreprenuer, Wayne has led anything but a boring life to date. Through his personal journey and relationship to mental wellbeing, he was propelled into the business world when he realised his purpose: to end suicide in Australia. The first iteration of this vision was the Sunrise Foundation which he founded in 2006, delivering preventative educational programs to highschool kids. Puka Up was the next step in his quest.

Over to Wayne…

Why Puka Up?

I founded Puka Up because of my passion for suicide prevention. I believe suicide is preventable but the way in which we have approached, managed and responded to mental health and suicide prevention in Australia is fundamentally flawed which continues to be reflected in the tragic loss of lives to suicide every year. I used to think my purpose in life was to be an athlete but I now realise that my personal journey with mental health conditions and the work I have done in this space for the past 14 years has been preparing me for the work I now do with Puka Up. It’s why I’m here – to fulfil my life purpose. We need a new way of tackling suicide. We can’t expect a different outcome if we continue using the same tactics we’ve used in the past. By educating and empowering everyday Australians with the skills, confidence and ability to manage their wellbeing not only prevents people from getting into crisis but most importantly, it prevents people from ending their lives. Every life matters!

The best part of your job?

Knowing the work we do saves lives. Receiving messages from people we’ve never met thanking us for saving their lives, or people telling us that they’ve made an appointment to see a doctor about their condition for the first time in their life. Having a positive impact on even saving another person’s life is why we do what we do.

How do you take care of your wellbeing?

Wellbeing is the way I chose to live my life. I’ve eliminated alcohol from my life to help me prioritise my sleep, I eat well, I exercise (a lot), I connect with the key people in my life and I am constantly talking with them about things in my life that might be going well or more importantly when I’m struggling with an issue or my wellbeing is under stress. I ask for help when I need to, I take medication when I need to, I hug a lot and I tell the key people in my life how much I love them, especially the men in my life. More recently the most important thing I’ve done for myself is to reconnect to all of my emotions, especially the ability to cry. I used to believe crying was a sign of weakness but that’s not true. Giving myself permission to cry when I’m in pain, hurting or feeling overwhelmed is a healthy reaction for me and means I am not denying my feelings or emotions.

Quick fire:

What’s your happiness hack?
Sitting in the sun, closing my eyes and feeling the warmth on my body

Perfect weekend?
Cycling, family, food and plenty of sleep

Introvert or extravert?

Morning person or night owl?

Phone call or text?

When you're not working you're...

Cycling on my own, connecting with nature or with a group of mates. Connection is an important part of my wellbeing.


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