TEN people from the northern Mallee have been selected as the inaugural Vocal Locals, who will use social media and their own personal networks to spread positive health and wellbeing-related messages.
The Vocal Locals campaign, an initiative of the Loxton community and ifarmwell, officially kicked off on Friday when the participants came together for mental health training, an orientation session and a welcome dinner.
ifarmwell founder Dr Kate Gunn said the Vocal Locals have already started working through the ifarmwell online modules, which provide practical tips to help them improve their wellbeing.
Next week, they will begin eight weeks of personal coaching with local wellbeing coach Tanya Lehmann.
"These sessions will link in with the topics covered in the ifarmwell modules and give Vocal Locals the chance to explore anything else that will help improve or maintain their wellbeing," Dr Gunn said.
"The Vocal Locals initiative is all about taking time out to look out for yourselves and those around you, and normalising conversations around mental health.
"Vocal Locals will be expected to attend each session prepared with one or two issues or challenges to discuss and work through.
"At the end of each session, Vocal Locals will plan at least one activity to do over the coming week to maintain or improve their wellbeing.
"They will be supported to design a social media post describing the activity and demonstrating the importance of investing in your own wellbeing to their broader social network and community.
"Ultimately, we hope to see the Vocal Locals project act as a catalyst for more conversations about mental health and wellbeing and to empower the Loxton and wider northern Mallee community to help each other with maintaining or improving their wellbeing."
Thanks to tremendous support from Neighbourhood Watch, 2500 flyers on how to support someone who is suicidal or having a tough time have also been distributed in the Loxton area this week.
Dr Gunn said one of the more moving aspects for the Vocal Locals at last week's mental health workshop was hearing someone with bipolar talk about how isolated that made them feel, and how someone simply taking the time to talk to them really helped their wellbeing.
Vocal Locals project coordinator and local broadacre farmer John Gladigau said the participants recruited for the campaign represented a broad cross section of the northern Mallee community.
"We have a diverse mix of gender, age, location and occupation which we hope will help to engage as many people as possible in this important campaign for our community," he said.
"From a local perspective, we are already seeing some incredible engagement from the community which makes me excited to see how many people we can potentially reach with this campaign and hopefully have a positive impact on their mental health and wellbeing."
The Vocal Locals are Mark DeCaux, almond grower and apiarist, Loxton; Stephen May, grain grower, Loxton; Chloe Oldman, interior design student, Loxton; Travis Flight, mixed farmer, Loxton; Tim Paschke, mixed farmer, Waikerie; Leanne Kaesler, mixed farmer, Loxton; Brenton Kroehn, mixed farmer, Waikerie; Darren Letton, poultry farmer, Pike River; Peri McIntosh, mixed farmer, Loxton; and Sam Hentschke, transport operator, Loxton.
The campaign will culminate in a celebration dinner in August ahead of the 2022 Kick Off Ya Boots production.
Vocal Locals builds on the work of the 2021 Kick Off Ya Boots show in Loxton, written by Mr Gladigau, which celebrated rural life and addressed some of the challenges which comes with farming.
The project is supported through the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal, through funding from the federal government's Future Drought Fund.
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