Cameron Merchant: ‘I hit absolute rock bottom’

Former cricketer Cameron Merchant opens up about his battle with mental health and how connecting with others helped him rebuild his life.

At first glance, Cameron Merchant’s life is picture perfect — and you would think it has always been that way.

The former international professional cricketer turned media personality is married to Jules Robinson, who he met in 2019 on reality TV series Married at First Sight.

Together they have a beautiful son Oliver and another baby on the way.

But what most people don’t realise is he once battled mental health struggles.

Hitting rock bottom

When his successful cricket career ended in 2014, Cameron felt lost.

“I had these negative feelings and emotions. I just kept them bottled up and eventually I hit absolute rock bottom,” he recalls.

After spending time in a mental health rehabilitation facility, he was determined to use his experience to help others build their mental fitness to cope with life’s ups and downs.

“I’ve been at the bottom of the barrel and yet here I am now — that’s why I live and breathe mental fitness,” Cameron says.

Cameron likes to share his story with others to try to help them embrace openness and vulnerability before they get to crisis point.

“That’s how change is made, one conversation at a time, which becomes a ripple effect,” he says.

It takes a village

Cameron has long been a passionate advocate for mental health.

He has been working for years as a presenter, and now ambassador, for Gotcha4Life, a non-profit foundation helping people struggling with mental health.

“We’re all going through the same thing and that’s helped by the power of connection and looking after your village,” he says.

“(With Gotcha4Life), we’re trying to create a place that is comfortable to look after yourself, look after each other, nurture each other’s emotions and strengthen our mental fitness so that little worries don’t turn into bigger ones.”

Cameron’s long-time mate Gus Worland has been on a mission to make a difference after losing a close friend to suicide.

In 2017, the TV and radio presenter founded Gotcha4Life to combat the alarming rate of suicide in Australia.

“The numbers are horrific — we’re losing seven blokes a day and two women a day,” Gus says. “Something needs to change.”

Gotcha4Life has raised more than $17 million to date through fundraising and partnerships with companies such as major sponsor Chemist Warehouse.

But there is still so much more work to be done in the prevention space to reach more people with the skills needed to get through life and get that suicide number to zero, Gus adds.

Listen to Gus Worland talk about the importance of building mental fitness on The House of Wellness Radio show:

Embracing mental fitness

The foundation’s latest initiative is an online mental fitness gym.

Designed to help Aussies improve their mental fitness, the free online gym gives people access to tools and resources to build their emotional muscle, no dumbbells required.

It includes helpful videos with tips from the likes of surfing legend Layne Beachley, netball champion Bianca Chatfield, parenting/resilience specialist Maggie Dent and design guru Neale Whitaker.

There are also programs to improve your mental fitness, plus a check-in to track your progress over time.

Gus says Gotcha4Life wants to help simplify and destigmatise mental health by reframing it as mental fitness.

“We’re giving people exercises to get mentally fit and making it accessible for everyone,” he says.

“It can be as simple as a reminder to breathe or a reminder to check in with your loved ones and friends.”

He says Gotcha4Life aims to foster a culture where no one feels alone in their struggles or worries.

“Use your emotional muscle. Be brave to stick your hand up and tell someone (about how you feel), whether it’s a friend, family member or a professional,” he says.

Cam’s tips to build emotional muscle

1. Be aware:

Notice your emotions, whether positive or negative, and reflect on what influences your mood. Are you feeling good after a long chat with a friend?

2. Practise gratitude:

Cultivate appreciation for the positives in your life, no matter how small.

3. Connect:

Surround yourself with supportive people and engage in open conversations with your “village”.

4. Embrace vulnerability:

Share your struggles to foster deeper connections.

If you or someone you know needs mental health support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

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Written by Bianca Carmona