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08 Aug 2018

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Giving the community a lift

By Sean Car

24-year-old Nai To is building her life around supporting others.

Having originally moved to Australia from Vietnam in 2013 on the back of a scholarship to study commerce at the University of Melbourne, Nai has been living in Southbank since February last year.

While normally a self-described “happy, bubbly, social and driven person”, Nai said that not so long ago she had started to experience a lot of ups and downs in her life. Unfortunately, it was the downs that were outweighing the ups.

“People generally have good days and bad days and I was just having more bad days,” she said. “There were days I couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t make myself a meal and just didn’t feel motivated to do anything.”

“Normally I’m quite driven, social and active and after seeing a psychologist I eventually figured out I had depression. The hardest time lasted for about six to eight weeks but it got to the point where I was determined to fix it.”

While coming to terms with her condition was the first step in the right direction, Nai said one of her biggest challenges in dealing with depression had been learning how to be nice to herself.

This was where she ultimately realised how important the presence of people was in her journey. She said it was through the kindness and support of others in her own network that eventually provided the catalyst for her to begin reaching out to support others dealing with similar issues.

In May this year Nai founded a free weekly depression support group from her Southbank apartment called LiftMeUp, which provides a safe space for people to share their feelings and thoughts with likeminded people.

Since the first Wednesday meet-up in May, the group is now regularly attended by an average of 10 to 15 people per week with around 200 people registered from all around Melbourne.

Nai said that having gone through depression herself, she had been able to identify a gap in the market for providing a more effective depression support model.

“We have amazing resources like Beyond Blue, Black Dog Institute and RU OK? Day. The thing is that a lot of it focuses on the insiders, who are people who have been through depression and anxiety,” she said.

“We get to a point where we are educating people about asking ‘are you okay?’ The problem is that I don’t think a lot of people are ready for the answer.”

“From the inside you don’t really know what you need but often it’s just about companionship. Just having someone sit there and not even having to talk. You can just be there.”

While the homely environment of her Southbank apartment continues to provide the base for her initiative, she has already begun expanding on her vision.

Having quit her marketing job earlier this year and funded LiftMeUp entirely out of her own pocket, she is now looking to develop the initiative into a social enterprise and to spread awareness.

That mission has already started here in Southbank through the support of our very own Boyd Community Hub. On September 13, Boyd will host the LiftMeUp Launch Party, which will offer a range of mindful activities and a chance for people to connect.

For just $4, guests can expect colouring, origami, a thoughts and diaries session, a hug station and much more! LiftMeUp has also collaborated with local laughter guru Merv Neal to offer a laugher yoga class.

“I was blessed to have friends and family who were there for me so I just want to pay forward,” Nai said. “Because I learnt to be so open and honest with sharing my story, people have been able to open and let their guards down.”

“Sure you’re having problems but now you’re finding people that are going through the same thing so we can laugh, cry or just talk about it and support each other for a few hours.”

To register for the Launch Party visit

For more information on LiftMeUp visit

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