It was in the spirit of ‘Value your Mind’ that 50 organisations and community groups were given small grants to foster the creation of projects, panel discussions, events and art in the hopes of raising awareness of mental health issues across Australia. Here are just some of the many winners and their remarkable stories.
As part of Mental Health Month last October, WayAhead in partnership with the Mental Health Commission of NSW awarded 50 small grants to non-government organisations and community groups to raise awareness of mental health issues in their community.
Each event, workshop and panel discussion reflected the 2015 theme of ‘Value your Mind’, with eligible organisations falling into one of four categories: culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities; LGBTQIA; Indigenous community groups; and, general community sector groups. Here are just some of the many grant winners and their stories.
Wellington Interagency Community
In partnership with Mission Australia and Desert Pea Media Productions, Wellington Interagency Community Group got creative and developed a rap song and music video to raise awareness of the importance of mental health in regional and Aboriginal communities.
The video, called ‘Hope’, was performed by the Wello Crew and explores the struggle of mental illness in their community. It has racked up over 11,000 views on YouTube and brought attention to an aspect of mental health welfare in Australia that is often under represented.
‘Hope’ was produced over five days, from a writing workshop to create the song lyrics to recording and filming the video throughout Wellington. It created an opportunity to get the whole community involved – becoming more than just a music video, it allowed for the town to come together and create something special for a good cause.
Samantha Orth, organiser of the event, sees the positive impact the project has had on the community.
“The video was able to decrease the negative stigma around mental health, while starting the conversation about mental health in the community,” she says.
Samantha has also seen young people more engaged with the Mission Australia services and feels comfortable talking to someone about their issues. All because of a simple video.
Orange Mental Health Month Committee
Orange was another country town that captured the spirit of ‘Value your Mind’ through the Orange Mental Health Month Committee (OMHMC). Working with the theme of ‘the elephant in the room’, the OMHMC looked at how mental health is an issue that young people just don’t want to talk about. The committee created 23 giant elephant cut-outs and put them throughout the community – in the local TAFE, schools and youth services. Each place hosted the elephant for a month, personalising it to create a positive discussion around mental health. Along with the elephants, the committee put on a barbecue for members of the community where they could go and receive information from different organisations and ask questions.
Connected Communities Project – Rainbow Alliance (Dubbo)
The community of regional neighbour Dubbo took it one step further by creating history in their town.
The grant winners, Connected Communities Project – Rainbow Alliance, hosted the first ever LGBTIQA pride march in Dubbo. The event brought over 200 people out to walk together as a community to highlight the diversity of towns in Western NSW. The event not only promoted support and reduced social isolation for LGBTIQA people, but also highlighted the fact that mental health issues affect the entire community.
Nicholas Steepe, who, together with his team, organised the event, is proud of what the pride march has accomplished in their small town.
“The march was our biggest display of support, so we’ve been making a lot of changes since then. It’s good to see the focus shift back to the LGBTIQA community,” he says.
With the high rate of LGBTIQA mental health issues in rural towns due to a lack of services, bullying and isolation, this event became a symbol of the change in time where sexual orientation and mental health can be discussed in an open platform with an entire community.
Nicholas and the Dubbo community are hoping to make this an annual event within the Mental Health Month calendar.
Hurstville City Council
In Sydney’s south, cultural and linguistically diverse community groups were also the recipients of the Mental Health Month grants, creating awareness of mental health for those in the community who come from different backgrounds.
Hurstville City Council did a simple art class, called ‘I’m in a good mind to paint’, for people in the community of diverse backgrounds who experience mental illness. The class used Chinese methods of art and traditional Chinese music to create a tranquil environment.
The event was not so much about awareness of mental illness but rather a way for those experiencing it to find an alternative method of coping and to meet other people who are in a similar situation. It became a way for people to forget about their issues for a while and create something beautiful.
South East Sydney Mental Health District (St George Division)
This next event was held specifically for the large number of Arabic speaking people within Sydney – a group often marginalised when it comes to discussions around mental health. The South East Sydney Mental Health District in the St George Division of mental health held a one-night event about the importance of looking after your mind and body.
Prominent individuals in the Arabic-speaking community, who specialise in nutrition, mental health and social work, provided the talks, with the group taking the opportunity to discuss health issues, like smoking, a large problem within the community.
The message of ‘Value your Mind’ was the main discussion point, with helpful tips on practising self-care and maintaining mental and physical wellness. The district is hoping events of this nature will help create a main hub for the discussion of mental health in this community.
Hunter New England Health
Focusing on a holistic wellbeing approach for Indigenous Australians, Hunter New England Health held an open mental health day at the Walhallow Public School – one of only three schools in NSW where all students are Indigenous Australians.
The event promoted messages of spiritual, mental, physical and social wellbeing through food and nutrition demonstrations and classes, discussions around the importance of healthy eating and connecting to Aboriginal culture through bush tucker and bush medicine, and hearing stories from Aboriginal elders and community mentors.
Traditional tai chi and qigong classes were also organised, as the natural elements in the movements of these exercises are similar to Aboriginal culture and in highlighting the importance of the natural environment. The community were able to share the significance of maintaining a healthy mental and physical mind through the connection with Aboriginal teachings and heritage.
This October will see the 2016 Mental Health Month, with this year’s theme if ‘Learn and Grow’ sure to bring a number of new projects, events and discussions around awareness of mental health in our communities.