A much-loved family member who was instrumental in launching anxiety support groups in St George, is being remembered as a dedicated woman who made it her mission to help people in need.
Julie Leitch, a co-founder of WayAhead’s Anxiety Support Groups, which have helped the community for more than 30 years, died in June this year, after being admitted to hospital with sepsis. She was 63.
Julie was a sufferer of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), but she used her strength to overcome personal experience and assist others who were in similar situations.
She started the groups with Jenny Learmont, and together they united over common ground. They organised casual yet supportive gatherings at many places throughout the region including the Kogarah Schools of Arts, a cafe at Rockdale, in Penshurst, a church hall and at Kogarah Library. Julie was also pivotal in developing a children’s support program.
Her husband Dennis, and daughter Amy, proudly speak of her memory, and the legacy she has left behind.
“Julie, being a sufferer of OCD, got treatment by bringing it under control, and that gave her life back,” Mr Leitch said.
“Before that, her condition was debilitating. I would come home and every light in the house was on. She’d be terrified, and it was triggered by fears that someone in the family would die if something wasn’t done properly.
“Her condition was about death, so treatment would involve things like buying a sympathy card, visiting a morgue. A lot of people need medication to help them but she got through it without any drugs.”
In 2010, Julie received a Hurstville Community Citizen of the Year for her contributions to people living with mental health issues.
A lot of the people mum helped were at her funeral. It was a testament to how many people she reached.– Julie’s daughter, Amy
Amy, 31, says she is proud of her mother’s achievements.
“I also struggled with anxiety, and understand the need for support,” she said. “A lot of the people mum helped were at her funeral. It was a testament to how many people she reached.”
October is Mental Health Month. More than two in five (43.7 per cent) Australians aged 16-85 years have experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Anxiety is the most common.
Mr Leitch will present at the Mental Health Association Awards on October 29. One of the awards has been named after Julie.
“The memory is raw, it still hurts,” he said. “She’s left a hole in our lives. But hopefully that will make us smile soon rather than make us sad.”
WayAhead runs the following groups:
- Sutherland Anxiety Support Group – third Saturday of the month at 3pm, Sutherland Seniors Centre.
- Miranda Mindfulness Anxiety Support Group – fourth Tuesday of the month at 6pm, Miranda RSL Club.
- Hurstville Anxiety Support Group – Third Tuesday of the month at 6.30pm, Club Central.
Registrations are essential. Details: email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 9339 6013
Lifeline: 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
Originally published as https://www.theleader.com.au/story/7888998/leaving-a-legacy-of-anxiety-support/