Take a minute, change a life – that is the call from mental health advocates in the lead up to World Suicide Prevention Day on Sunday.
It is a message that resonates with many locals, who are painting the town yellow in anticipation of RUOK Day next Thursday – an event that encourages us to ask friends and family if they’re feeling low.
“If something tells you in your gut that something’s not quite right – that is the time to have the conversation,” director of the Hunter Institute of Mental Health Jaelea Skehan said.
“As difficult as it might be to start a conversation and to reach out and ask ‘Are you ok?’, it is actually much harder for someone who is currently in distress and despair to put their hand up and ask for help. There’s great power in us as a community learning how to and being brave enough to actually offer help.”
Part of the conversation thinktank for RUOK Day, Ms Skehan encouraged locals to trust their gut instincts. If you notice someone acting withdrawn or ‘not themselves’, she said, it is time to reach out.
Ross Hill senior psychologist education Karina Hutching, who has been championing a series of mental health information sessions for local public schools this month, said the RUOK Day message was for every day.
“It’s an ongoing message that we promote connectedness to others and that we promote our wellbeing and the health of those around us,” she said.
She said the sessions aimed to teach children about the supports available to them in the school environment, and their own ability to improve their mental state.
Sleep, water and exercise was the focus at Inverell Public School on Wednesday, as students learnt about the power they have to improve their mental health. The combined wellbeing and fitness workshop is running in every local school before RUOK Day.
As a project manager at Armajun Aboriginal Health Service, James Sheather has backed several mental health programs in the region.
“I think it needs to be promoted more, because there’s a lot of issues out there that don’t get addressed,” he said. Mr Sheather said that there is a great need in the Indigenous community, and that grief, loss and intergenerational trauma added to the struggle.
Good SPACE (Suicide Prevention through Awareness, Courage and Empathy) project co-ordinator Fiona Livingstone, who runs Aboriginal suicide prevention workshops with rugby league star Nathan Blacklock agreed. She said unresolved grief due to the consequences of colonisation was one reason Aboriginal people are more likely to suffer from mental illness.
“Our research tells us, and certainly Aboriginal participants in our workshops are in agreement that this all stems from colonisation when the lives and the world of Aboriginal people changed dramatically,” she said.
She said other factors included racism, discrimination, inequality and a shorter lifespan.
Good SPACE runs a number of mental health workshops in Inverell and the region, including two free suicide prevention workshops. If anyone is interested in educating themselves on suicide prevention, contact Ms Livingstone on 0427 072 105 or email@example.com.
Local RUOK Day activities will be held at Victoria Park next Thursday, September 14.
If you need help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for free, 24 hour crisis support.