Tough topics like suicide can often leave people feeling helpless, but Meg Perceval believes community involvement is key to helping mental illness sufferers before they reach crisis level.
“We really believe that suicide prevention belongs in the community, that everyday people can make a difference,” the founder of non-profit More Than Awareness said.
“Mental health professionals are very important and doctors are very important, but what we’re trying to do is help people before they get to the point that they’re in crisis.”
As Inverell gears up to paint the town yellow as part of RUOK Day on September 14, a reminder to check in on one another’s mental health; More Than Awareness will pitch in with a series of training workshops.
Ms Perceval, who has been a passionate advocate for mental health in Inverell, was excited to see a co-ordinated effort from many individuals and services.
“It’s really what we need. Rather than just little isolated groups trying to forward the cause, it’s excellent to see so many different layers of the community get involved,” she said.
Over the next month, every public school in town will be provided with wellbeing and suicide prevention training for both teachers and students. More Than Awareness will also run a free parent information evening on September 13 from 6-9pm. Ross Hill Public School will host the evening, with refreshments available from 5.30pm.
Recognising the importance of physical exercise to improve mental health, the Ross Hill P&C will offer sponsorship to students keen to take part in the Sapphire City River Run in October.
“Exercise can be a really important part of keeping yourself not just physically healthy, but mentally health as well,” Ms Perceval said.
“We know that exercise as well can help prevent the onset of mental illness, it can help in the relief of symptoms of common mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and it can also help in the recovery and treatment of those mental illnesses. So it’s a really great thing to get kids and adults active.”
Businesses will not be left out of the training, with an information night on September 7, from 6-9pm for business owners. The Inverell Chamber of Commerce will host, but the night is open to all.
A month of activities will culminate in Victoria Park with RUOK Day on September 14. Businesses are encouraged to wear yellow and locals to ask their friends, family and co-workers “Are you ok?”. Several local agencies including Pathfinders, Community Health and the Inverell Shire Council will run information stalls and activities.
More Than Awareness will continue their campaign the following week, September 19 with a Fitness for Farmers event at the saleyards, thanks to funds raised in a Crossfit Inverell event late last year.
“We’re going to be out there talking to them about how they might exercise on the farm,” Ms Perceval said.
“We’re also going to be talking to them about the importance of social connections and the key relationships in their life and how important that is for health.”