If you won an award for outstanding contributions to the Canberra community and part of the prize was $500, what would you spend it on? Local resident Ralph Nelson was awarded the ACT Mental Health Week Award in 2013 for Consumer Contribution to Sector Development. Part of the prize was $500 and he put the money right back into the community.
Mr Nelson is a local writer, artist, gardener and poet and has spent much of his life contributing brilliance and beauty to the local landscape. When awarded the $500, Mr Nelson said he ‘concocted a plan in my crazy head to spread the good fortune as far as I could’. He purchased his first digital camera, joined Facebook and started a YouTube channel.
As of this month, the Noslenrat YouTube channel has published over 850 videos with views exceeding 416,000 in 210 countries. There are 246 subscribers to his YouTube channel and his videos have been used by newspapers and magazines including Rolling Stone.
Alongside the YouTube channel, Mr Nelson is currently involved in multiple projects in the community from actively participating in community committees to neighbourhood gardening. Collaborating with local musician Ben Drysdale from funk and soul brass band East Row Rabble, the pair wrote an original track titled ‘Aliens in my Brain’. Mr Nelson wrote a poem that inspired this song as an attempt to portray what it may be like for someone with mental health issues to experience “hearing voices” or be overcome with intrusive thoughts.
Mr Nelson said “these feelings may be like someone else is controlling your thought processes in an ‘alien’ way. I used simple well known iconic science fiction images to portray the symptoms of helplessness, memory deficiency, anger and loss of self control”. Together Drysdale and Nelson extended “this spaced out journey so that it actually feels like an experience of a dangerous unwanted journey, although there is also an amusing element to it.” ‘Aliens in my Brain’ is being released this Saturday in celebration of Mental Health Week.
Not one to have idle hands, Mr Nelson is showcasing both his poetry and photography tonight at Smith’s Alternative as part of a project forged by The ACT Mental Health Consumer Network for Mental Health Week 2016. “The Lived Experience” is an anthology of poetry written by mental health consumers. Mr Nelson and other contributors will be given an opportunity to read their poems and everyone is welcome to attend. The poetry anthology will continue to be promoted throughout Mental Health Week at Smith’s.
Next time you have a windfall, think about how Mr Nelson chose to spend his and whether there might be a way you can make a difference too.