Charging ahead to beat mental health stigmas
FOR MANY people living with mental illness across Australia, it can almost feel impossible to talk without the fear of being stigmatised.
These feelings of helplessness or even shame are often more pronounced in regional centres, and Gympie is no exception.
Which is why youth workers and members of the community came together today to mark World Mental Health Day.
"Part of the problem is that there's still the 'stiff upper lip' approach to mental illness," says Gaylene Johnston from PHN Central Qld, Wide Bay and Sunshine Coast.
"Communication and education is critical in identifying and treating mental illness - so it's a real problem when nobody wants to talk about it."
Using an exercise bike hooked up to a battery and a television, it's an unusual but effective way of starting a conversation.
"What better way to generate conversation then to generate a bit of power too," youth worker Pete Allan says.
"It's so important to break down those stigmas surrounding mental health, and educating and informing people is the best way to do that."
Despite one in four adults likely to experience some form of depression and anxiety, negative or even hostile attitudes toward mental health still exist. These attitudes can often be difficult to dismantle.
"It's an illness, like a broken leg," Ms Johnston says.
"And like any other illness, it can be treated."
Recent statistics show Gympie residents are at a higher risk of mental illness and suicide than other towns in the Sunshine Coast and Wide Bay regions.
An assessment of mental health data undertaken by PHN highlights a number of areas and factors linking Gympie to higher rates of mental illness.
Chief among them were lack of education, housing affordability and, for young people, access to mental health facilities.
"It may be a little bit easier for kids to get their hands on information in the bigger cities," Mr Allan says.
"One of the best community resources to find out info in Gympie is actually at PHN."
Partners in Recovery support facilitator Jo Pengelly was quick to point out there are a number of services available to any person struggling in Gympie.
"There are organisations and centres in town, I want to make that clear," she says. "You're not helpless, there are places for you to go to."
Awareness of mental health issues, treatment and services doesn't just benefit those suffering with illness - it's also critical for the wider community to get educated as well.
"Mental health is everybody's problem, and it's everybody's responsibility too," Jo adds.
If you are struggling with your mental health, there are facilities and services available to help you.
Contact any of the listed numbers below for assistance and consultation.
Gympie Mental Health
20 Alfred St
Shop 2, 107 Mary St
1800 650 890
Beyond Blue beyondblue.org.au
1300 22 4636
13 11 14