WIMMERA residents are banding together to promote mental health awareness in regional and remote communities.
There are several advocacy groups across the Wimmera founded and run by volunteers.
The Mail-Times profiles three groups that are making a difference.
Healthy Minds Horsham
HEALTHY Minds Horsham hosts regular workshops, courses and presentations about mental health throughout the region.
Committee member Gavin Morrow said people who wanted someone to talk to would often contact the group.
"There are some good organisations out there, like Beyond Blue and R U OK? Day, which are encouraging people to talk - so Healthy Minds Horsham is gaining momentum," he said.
"Usually the people who ring us have had these issues for a long time and have been through the system. Most of the time they just want someone to talk to."
Mr Morrow said the group took a proactive approach to early intervention.
"The services available now are all there to help people once there's a problem. What Healthy Minds Horsham is trying to do is promote ways of managing stress levels as a preventative measure before it becomes a problem," he said.
"It could be meditation, yoga or simply going for a walk; it needs to be a method that people can refer to if they start feeling stressed."
He said suicide was an ongoing concern for the region.
"I know of lots of people who have taken their own lives in the Wimmera and I know others would say the same thing," he said.
"There are so many people who have gone through it, learned to turn their lives around and are now trying to offer help in the community. The people who have experienced it are often the best people to help."
Mr Morrow said the group was advocating for a wellness or crisis centre in Horsham.
"We're working hard with Horsham Rotary Club, as well as Wimmera Base Hospital, Member for Lowan Emma Kealy and Member for Mallee Anne Webster, but we're waiting to see what comes out of the Royal Commission into the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System first to see the recommendations," he said.
"I'm confident that it will eventually get to Horsham and it will be an absolutely necessary service. In the meantime we need to keep encouraging people to talk to someone."
The group will host a mindfulness course in October and a talk with Monash University Associate Professor Craig Hassed in November.
Wimmera Lives Matter
WIMMERA Lives Matter was formed in May 2018 to help reduce stigma and raise awareness about suicide.
Chairwoman Ruth Sanders said Wesley LifeForce hosted a forum to gauge interest in forming a suicide prevention network in Horsham.
"There was a lot of support for it and from there the network was formed," she said.
She described Wimmera Lives Matter as a proactive awareness group that supported suicide prevention and promoted positive mental health.
Wesley LifeForce provides each network with $5000 to promote that message through events or advocacy.
"We've given money to different events and groups that support mental health, such as National Youth Week," she said.
"We have supported a few other events that have happened and worked with the Rural Outreach Service."
Ms Sanders said the group's next project was to host a walk along the Wimmera River in November, similar to the Suicide Prevention Walk in Ballarat.
"We're looking at ways to raise awareness and connect with the community," she said.
"We know that one of the major reasons why people take their own lives is because they might feel disconnected from their community. It's about building those connections as well as fostering good mental health."
She said anyone was welcome to join the growing group and those interested could connect through the group's Facebook page.
Ararat Suicide Prevention Awareness Group
ARARAT Suicide Prevention Awareness Group member Lauren Dempsey said the group was founded to provide support to existing services.
"The group is run by community members, so it's really for peer support. We're not creating and developing new resources, rather supporting what is already there," she said.
"We do the Ararat R U OK? Day event and next year we're looking at doing a memorial walk. It's only in talks at the moment, but the Ballarat and District Suicide Prevention Network does a similar thing.
"That would be more around supporting families and people who have been affected by a loved one dying by suicide."
The group also has a large presence on social media, which Ms Dempsey said helped spread messages of support to a wide audience of people.
She said the group was also hoping to raise money to get the Resilience Project to Ararat and speak to school students.
- If you, or someone you know needs support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Help on 1800 55 1800 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
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