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4 August 2020

Jason L

Photo by Nat Rogers

I was born on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia and grew up on a farm that Mum and Dad ran. Had a brother and sister, both younger, and went to a primary school with just 10 pupils. I was good at maths, and loved sport such as basketball, tennis, table tennis and cricket. High school was a difficult transition; it was a much bigger school with lots of students and I had a really hard time. High school was where a lot of my mental health issues started.

Teachers were quite hard on me and I lost confidence. I was still good at maths though. When I was 17 my family moved to Adelaide, which was another scary change. My parents bought a seafood restaurant on Gouger Street. I used to work there, helping run the front of house, greeting and meeting guests. It was so busy, but I made some great friends and really liked the atmosphere. I did that for eight years but then stopped working. I decided to go and see a psychologist and was diagnosed with anxiety and schizophrenia and I received medication for it.

Eight years ago I got my own house in Norwood. I love it. I have my own space and I love the area. I go for lots of walks. Shortly after that I joined the mental health service Mind Australia and they have been supporting me ever since. Since joining I’ve done so many great things, like self-development courses, and have also learned how to garden! My dad passed away three years ago, and I still see my mum who lives near me now. My brother is a builder, and my sister is a mum to a family. My wife Mayuree is from Thailand. I speak a tiny bit of Thai but not heaps. We also have a daughter together and I love her. They live with me now. I go with her to school, the playground and sometimes shopping – we have heaps of fun.

I was looking for work when my support worker suggested I give The Big Issue a go. I liked it; I started selling well very quickly. You have your tough days and weeks, but it’s been fantastic. I just keep positive and smile – perseverance! I sell a lot of my mags by tap and go, which has been fantastic for me as I’m near the KPMG building and a lot of businesspeople prefer using tap and go. It was a pretty quiet pitch before and I’ve managed to sell heaps there!

Since joining The Big Issue I have gained confidence, and love talking to and meeting different people. It means I have a bit more money to do things I want to do, like help my family, go see AFL games (I support Power!) and watch movies. I’m hoping to help and inspire others to join as well. I want to thank my Big Issue customers for their continual support.

Interview by Matt Stedman
Jason sells The Big Issue at Hindmarsh Square, Adelaide