A team of Wellways staff recently travelled across rural New South Wales to promote men’s mental health and suicide prevention.
The six men travelled for five days through towns in the Riverina and Murrumbidgee regions and chronicled their journey in social media and online. They came from a range of different backgrounds but all hoped to promote acceptance and the importance of talking about mental health, particularly among men.
The trip was as much about discovering more about each other as the people they met and interviewed. The Riverina Roadshow visited a mine at West Wyalong, a barber shop in Griffith and ended at the first ever Hay Mardi Gras on March 3.
“We wanted to start up conversations about men’s mental health, so we visited interesting and different places. Places where this topic is not discussed much,” said David Bauer, a Wellways recovery support worker.
“We wanted to start supportive conversations with men and for them to feel more comfortable talking about these things. In my work I talk about this a lot. But we decided we could do something about this ourselves,” he said.
In 2015 suicide claimed 33 lives in the Murrumbidgee area alone, according to HealthStats NSW. That year the region had about 15 suicides per 100,000 people, compared to the state figure of about 10 per 100,000. The figure was statistically even higher in the Aboriginal community, and for young Aboriginal men in particular.
“Suicide, mental wellbeing and life challenges can impact anyone at any time. No one is immune to challenging life situations – mental health does not discriminate despite our diverse communities,” said Wellways CEO Elizabeth Crowther. “This trip was a fantastic way to get the word out.”
Wellways is delivering grass roots support to people after a suicide attempt with a $781,500-a-year investment from the Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network, made possible through funding from the Australian Government under the PHN Program.
As Jay Morris wrote in one of the diary entries: “There is nothing more special - yet equally heartbreaking - than hearing the impassioned plea of a family that have lived through a death by suicide. As our time in Lake Cargelligo came to an end we were met with an overwhelming sense of community, compassion and caring from the people we met.
“As people who work within a community service, we sometimes get bogged down or stressed over the “tasks” we have to complete, but the reality is, everything we do is for the greater good of the people and communities we lend a hand to.
“That reference group we hold, affects a community; that filing that we do, protects a person’s privacy; that printing we do, allows us to educate another person. Going forward, as a team, we are learning that everything we do has a cause and effect and everything we do is to make one more life that little better.”
The team will also produce an educational video of the journey and people they met.