THE Gerringong community have had a tough few months, with a number of their friends and family struggling with mental health issues - seeing a handful of individuals take their own lives.
However, over the weekend, the community, led by the Gerringong SLSC, showed their fighting spirit and willingness to lend a hand, whenever need be.
The surf club was one of 18 clubs to take part in the third annual 24-hour row for mental health - raising money and awareness for mental health charities Gotcha4Life and One Eighty.
This event coincided with the Yellow Up Gerringong (run by the Gezza Cares group) initiative - seeing the coastal town cover itself in yellow ribbons, flowers and balloons. The is aimed to connect, educate and engage people of all ages in the community in the conversation about suicide, especially teenagers and young adults.
"The whole response from the community was completely overwhelming," Gerringong SLSC president Richard Payne said.
"We went in hoping to raise about $1000 but it went absolutely gangbusters and we raised $21,055 for mental health, which is amazing.
"We had only planned on running two rowers at once but due to the support by the community, we had three or four rowers going at all times - with more than 150 people taking part."
During the 24-hour period, community groups such as the Gerringong Lions, Gerringong Jets Cricket Club, Gerringong Hockey Club and Joel Roberts Fitness all took part - as well as many members of the surf club.
"There was just a real buzz the whole time - especially with so much yellow painted across the town," Payne said.
"My brother and I had the 3am to 4am shift and although the first 15 minutes were a little tough, the energy and companionship around the clubrooms got us through.
"Then to see a mother and daughter combination jump on after us was really inspiring and just shows how strong the spirit is in Gerringong."
In particular, Payne credited the help of three former Gerringong NRL players Rod Wishart, Shaun Timmins and Ashton Sims.
"All three of those legends jumped at the chance to be involved," Payne said.
"Obviously Wishy's [Rod Wishart] boys and the number of the Lions are growing their mullets for mental health (which has already raised more than $80,000), so it was great to have him involved too.
"With Ashton now working at the Mental Health Movement, it was awesome to see him chat to all the young kids in attendance.
"If someone as big and strong as Ashton, who grew up just down the road, is happy to chat about his feelings, it shows everyone else they can too."
When the event wrapped up at midday on Sunday, a large crowd was in attendance to celebrate the accomplishment.
"After we wrapped up, it was good to have lunch with everyone involved - as people felt better being involved in something as special as this," Payne said.
"It's obviously been a tough couple of weeks for the community but this response shows everyone acknowledges there is a problem and wants to tackle it head-on.
"Events like this seem to be working because later that afternoon, a couple of people stuck around the clubhouse and just chatted, which is really positive.
"Walking in and seeing a solid group of kids chatting with each other and checking up on each other was as good of a thing as I saw all weekend."
In three short weeks, the Gerringong club raised the most of any of the 18 clubs - $5,000 more than second - with a total of more than $120,000 going back into mental health programs.
"This event wasn't just about raising money but raising awareness for mental health, suicide prevention and reducing the stigma around it," Payne said
"With the support this event received, it's safe to say the people of Gerringong - who are always very parochial - are ready to start the conversation, to ensure we don't lose any more lives.
"The next step is organising some programs with Gotcha4Life right here in our community."
Payne said the club is already making plans for next year's 24-hour row.
Numbers to call if you or anyone you know needs help are:
Lifeline 13 11 14
Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia 1300 789 978
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36
Headspace 1800 650 890
QLife 1800 184 527