Semi-retirement and a new home in Warrnambool, Vic, has reminded me once again of the importance of timing.
Moving to Vic prior to the COVID-19 pandemic may have been poor timing but in many ways, I am counting my blessings.
Following a mental breakdown in 2019 I moved to Warrnambool to gain family support. Being a single person, having family around me, particularly my grandkids, was more value than all the pills I could swallow. It was such a contrast in lifestyles to that of me spending time in a mental health hospital near Melbourne.
Now in good health I see one of my major roles in life is to be as good of a grandparent as I can possibly be. One chap said to me tongue in cheek, "if I knew how good grandparenting was. I would have had my grandkids first".
Having experienced the terrible downside of poor mental health, I have become involved in an organisation called Let's Talk here in Warrnambool. Its focus is on reducing the stigma around mental health.
Friends of mine lost their son to suicide so they, along with a small group of like-minded caring people, set up Let's Talk.
While much of the focus is on prevention of young male suicides, all sectors of society can access our services.
In broad terms, we are building a fence at the top of the cliff rather than having an ambulance at the bottom.
The core function of the group is to go to football, netball, cricket clubs and industry and do a one-hour presentation to the players and or staff.
Included in the presentation is a person with lived experience of poor mental health who speaks on how they came to be a sufferer, how they sought help, the healing process and what their life is like once out the other side.
A strong emphasis is on encouraging individuals to talk about their situation and developing skills to identify mates who may be struggling.
Due to very long lockdowns in Vic, the pandemic has exacerbated mental health problems in our communities, so Let's Talk is increasing its presence into the Hamilton, Vic, and Colac, Vic, regions in the new year.
While highly dependent on volunteer input to drive Let's Talk, the organisation has employed staff with fundraising critical for our future success.
Sponsorships and donations have been forthcoming from a large number of organisations and businesses because they can see that the preventative approach really is the best way to go.
Importantly we are not a government organisation - we are community members caring for and trying to reduce the stigma of mental health and help improve and save the lives of our family members and friends.
The loss of one young farmer to suicide is one too many and there is possibly no more worthy organisation I could contribute my knowledge and skills to in semi-retirement time than Let's Talk.
- Visit letstalkaustralia.org for more information.
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