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Herman’s Hands is an Australian Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention Clothing Brand.
Herman's Hands uses clothing as a vehicle for spreading awareness to Create Dialogue and Inspire Change.
The dialogue Herman's Hands has created since 2016 has proven that it is possible to break through the macho Aussie male stereotype and associated culture that stands in the way of removing (and hugely contributes to) the stigma surrounding mental health. Through the awareness Herman’s Hands spreads you can learn to love yourself when you think you’re unlovable or the only one. And through the awareness Herman’s Hands spreads you can learn to love others when you understand their lonely, silent suffering.
On November 17 of 2007 at around 2:30pm Herman (Damian McDonnell) took his own life and his youngest son, Brenny was the first person to discover his body.
Brenny was 15 at the time.
Herman also left behind a suicide letter personally addressed to Brenny.
In his letter Herman told Brenny that took his own life to prevent the ‘doom and gloom that had taken over his life’ from being exposed to his young son.
The doom and gloom Herman was referring to is mental illness.
Brenny is the facilitator of the G’day Guys Health Club. He is a former fighter and boxing trainer at Bondi Boxing Gym.
I made this brand in my dad’s name. Herman was his nickname. He was a Tattoo Artist. He was a loving man who was looked up to by many as a mentor and confidant.
I once said that this brand acts as my dad’s hands from wherever he is now. But in reality it is my way of giving his death meaning. It’s my way of doing something about the damage it’s done to my family. It’s my way of doing something about the heinous suicide statistics in this country. It’s a creative solution to a complex problem. It’s not the solution. It’s just something. It’s my something. And something is better than nothing.
This brand isn’t actually about my dad. It’s about the impact his choices and actions had on those around him. Just like yours and mine. And it’s about the example I made the choice to become by taking responsibility for myself and my emotions, seeking help, speaking my truth, sharing my life with transparency, and continuously showing up for myself and others. This brand is about everything Herman was incapable of.
I’ve grappled the trauma associated with my dad’s actions since the moment I read his letter back in 2007. In very short, my dad’s letter told me that I wasn’t enough for him. This became one of my core beliefs, imprinted on my adolescent subconscious mind. With beliefs that “I am not enough”, “my feelings don’t matter” and a bunch more firmly lodged deep inside of me, I developed anxiety and sought to escape the feelings associated with my dad’s death.
I became a Muay Thai fighter, completed an architecture degree, got an Italian passport and then moved overseas to the island of Malta.
It took me around 12 years to transcend my anxiety, start processing my suppressed emotions and face the truth. The truth is my dad didn’t kill himself for me, he killed himself to escape the torture it was living inside his mind. He allowed himself to get the point of no return. He was unable to take responsibility for his life. He was dishonest with himself and therefore unable to love himself. Going through life this way disconnected him from the real world. I know my dad didn’t understand, but he completely f*cked me over. Not only as a father, but by writing that letter to me and allowing me to be the one to find his body he hand-balled his burden to me.
For now, this is my truth. And I, like a lot of you, am on a journey of forgiveness. Forgiveness for my dad and forgiveness for myself. Herman's Hands is a step on this journey for me.
Life hasn’t been easy but I’m here now and I’m incredibly grateful for the life I have created and proud of the man I have become. Most of what I’ve dedicated my life to since 2012 has been to undo the damage my father’s actions did and stop this from happening to others.
I knew early on that if I didn’t do anything about my suffering that I’d someday pass it on to my children like my dad did to my brother’s and I, and his dad before him.
I had to become an example.
While I was in Malta I shared my life and experiences in great detail on my blog, www.brendanmcdonnell.com, which resonated with thousands of people.
I didn’t want what I’d shared on my blog to simply fade away so I attached my messages to something tangible. In June of 2016 I launched Herman’s Hands.
Herman’s Hands uses clothing as a vehicle for spreading awareness to Create Dialogue and Inspire Change. The dialogue Herman's Hands has created has proven that it is possible to break through the macho Aussie male stereotype and associated culture that stands in the way of removing (and hugely contributes to) the stigma surrounding mental health.
It’s taken a lot of time and evolution but Herman’s Hands is an act of love. Love for myself and others. Through the awareness Herman’s Hands spreads you can learn to love yourself when you think you’re unlovable or the only one. And through the awareness Herman’s Hands spreads you can learn to love others when you understand their lonely, silent suffering. Love by Herman’s Hands.
With awareness we can cultivate love for ourselves and others.
With awareness the doom and gloom it can be overcome.
If I can, you can too.
Create Dialogue – Inspire Change.