By Jill Gralow
SYDNEY (Reuters) – The sun is rising over Sydney’s Bondi Beach and surfer Grant Trebilco, clad in a colorful striped long-sleeved shirt and bright yellow shorts with black polka dots, has just caught his first wave.
Whether he catches one wave or a hundred, this salt water therapy, as Trebilco calls it, is where he finds his happy place.
Trebilco was diagnosed with bipolar disorder seven years ago and hospitalized in a mental health facility. Finding himself unable to cope with everyday situations, he did the one thing that brought him happiness. He went surfing.
He immediately felt better and realized that one wave was all he needed to get him through the day.
Hoping to share this discovery with others, Trebilco put on a fluorescent suit one Friday when getting ready to surf.
“Fluoro Fridays” was born. Every Friday morning since that day six years ago, a group of people dressed in bright colors or wearing colorful garlands has sat at the southern end of Bondi Beach in what is called an “anti-bad vibes circle” to discuss depression, anxiety and living with mental illness.
Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan were invited to join the circle during their visit to Australia last year. The prince has said he sought counseling in his late twenties to deal with the grief of losing his mother, Princess Diana.
“Prince Harry said ‘asking for help is not a weakness, it’s a strength’, and that just showed people around the world you don’t have to face mental health challenges alone,” Trebilco said.
“Fluoro Friday” now takes place on 150 beaches around the world and Trebilco says that, for some people, it’s the first time they’ve been able to share their mental health struggles.
“I think the way the OneWave community helps is that it lets people know it’s OK not to be OK,” Trebilco said.
Members of the community say it helps raise their spirits.
“Whether you surf or not, you can just come into the water and it just clears your head for the beginning of your Friday and gives you a good start to the weekend,” said Ricky, one of the members of the community.
(Reporting by Jill Gralow; Editing by Karishma Singh and Paul Tait)