Many people walk on by at the sight of a homeless person in dire straits but for Griffith student Liam Maddigan, it provided the inspiration for a song to raise awareness of mental health issues.
The third year Griffith University Bachelor of Nursing student was on holiday in Brighton in the UK with his fiancé Fiona when they came across a man called Roger.
“The poor man was passed out on a footpath with his pants around his ankles and he was clearly living on the streets,” says Liam, who also works at the Wesley Hospital as a part-time orderly in intensive care.
“It was not a pretty sight but what disturbed us most was that everyone would walk around or over him, not bothering to see if he was even alive.
“Fiona has a passion for working in mental health so she immediately wanted to check to see if he was ok. I asked her to just stand back so I could approach the man, just in case he became aggressive.
“I knelt down next to him, and gently roused him from his sleep. He was very drunk and confused. I told him who I was and that I just wanted to help him up and get his pants back on. Because of his confusion, he started to raise a fist towards me, but I held his hand and told him that I only wanted to help him. He started to calm down and although still very confused, he began to co-operate with me.
“At this stage, a couple of other men that knew this man due to living on the streets with him, came over and began to help me to pull the man’s pants up.
Act of kindness
“The man thanked us for our ‘act of kindness’ as he called it, and told us that people will usually always look the other way when they see a homeless man; he
was touched that we stopped to help out a stranger.”
Once back in Australia, Liam was playing his guitar one day when he felt compelled to write a song about what it means to be homeless with mental health issues and other people’s attitudes towards it.”
Shortly after writing the song, Liam sent a recording of himself playing it to Homelessness Australia.
“I was really surprised when the organisation got back to me within just two hours saying that the song ‘hits the nail on the head’ in regards to how society often ignores homeless people and those with mental health problems.”
“It didn’t take very long to write it but it was a cathartic process for me as I am very concerned about mental health issues being swept under the carpet.
“However I am pleased that some progress is now being made with organisations making an increased effort to highlight this important health area and move away from mental health being so stigmatised.”
Playing the song
Liam has now been asked to play his song at the Homelessness Australia Conference on the Gold Coast this September. “It is such an honour for them to appreciate my music, and being able to create a piece of music inspired from my nursing experience is the icing on the cake.”
The Homelessness Australia conference will be held on the Gold Coast Convention Centre from 10-12 September 2014. Please visit
http://www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au/index.php/events/national-homelessness-conference/8th-national-homelessness-conference for more info.