DAMIEN STEWART

Sport and Exercise Psychologist
Consultant Psychologist

Damien came to psychology from a 19-year career in the emergency services sector at both the state and federal level. Damien has experience providing psychological services to children and adults experiencing depression and anxiety, trauma, chronic pain and disease, grief and loss, life change, and issues of dependence.

Damien has completed a Master of Applied Psychology (Sport & Exercise) and a Master of Philosophy (Psychology) degree at the University of Queensland, Australia. He is a member of the Australian Psychological Society and an Associate Member of the College of Sport & Exercise Psychology. Damien is also registered with the Psychology Board of Australia and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

What led you to begin a career in psychology?
I worked for 19 years as a Police Officer in both the WA Police and Australian Federal Police. In 2003 I was diagnosed with seronegative rheumatoid arthritis and was told I could no longer play sport or be a police officer, so I began looking around for what I could do next. I had always wanted to study psychology so off I went. The same values apply to both careers - to help people.

What are some challenges you have faced in your career in psychology and the steps you took to overcome them?
Right from the beginning psychology was hard. I was studying whilst working full time whilst playing an elite sport, and getting to the end goal is not set in stone. I also think bucking some of the trends in psychology has been difficult, in favour of doing what feels right to me. For example, heading into private practice and using my therapeutic approach was what felt right to me. 

To overcome these challenges you need to know where you’re going and set goals. Break those goals down into easily consumed chunks. Understand what the pathway is and adhere to it. Sometimes you just have to push through. Nobody is going to just give you what you want. Get your mindset right and focus.

What motivated you to want to be a part of YUMM!’s videos series?
YUMM! and I have the same goals:  Prevent mental health issues before they arise, reduce stigma around mental health, and mental health resources shouldn’t be restricted only to those who can pay.

Why is mental health awareness and education so important to you?
The health sector begins teaching us about physical health in high school; that we should exercise, sexual health, and healthy eating. But we never really get told about how to gain and maintain good mental health. We only seem to seek answers once things go wrong. Just as in sport and other areas of physical rehabilitation, injury prevention is seen as better than the cure. I feel the same approach can be taken to mental health. What if we began to teach people the principles of good mental health, good communication and how to have good relationships? How much difference would that have on people’s lives? 

Why are young Australian’s most at risk of developing mental health issues?
There are likely multiple reasons for this but some of my experiences are: we are not taught effective problem-solving and coping strategies, alcohol and other drugs, worrying about what other people think, social media, not enough exercise and social comparison. Young Aussie's are looking for a quick fix (instant results) but the real world doesn’t work this way. People also do not realise that there is always, always a way out.