OCTOBER is mental health month and Wellways Nowra is challenging everyone to "Stampede Stigma".
The stigma, that is, that often comes with having a mental health issue.
Stampede Stigma is a Wellways initiative and locally the organisation has teamed with South Coast Police, the National Indigenous Australians Agency, Services Our Way, Cullunghutti Aboriginal Child and Family Centre and the South Coast Harley Owners Group (Hogs) to present a month full of activities aimed to bring mental health awareness into focus.
A special event will also be staged at Jelly Bean Park in the Nowra CBD on Wednesday, October 21.
Shoalhaven Mayor Amanda Findley has also thrown her support behind the event as has Officer in charge of Nowra Police Station, Inspector Ray Stynes. Wellways staff, Indigenous advisors John Alison and Tyrone Taylor from National Indigenous Australians Agency, Cullunghutti CEO Tara Leslie and community engagement officer Tina Seymour will also be present at the Nowra event.
Wellways program coordinator Kath Vangelovski said the aim is to change attitudes and behaviour towards people with mental health issues.
"One in five Australians will experience a mental health issue in any given year," she said.
People with mental health issues need our support - they shouldn't have to live in shame, isolation or silence. No one should have to fear being treated differently because of a mental health issue.Wellways program coordinator Kath Vangelovski
"Almost one in two Australians will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime.
"People with mental health issues need our support - they shouldn't have to live in shame, isolation or silence.
"No one should have to fear being treated differently because of a mental health issue."
She said mental health issues can affect anyone.
"Three out of four people say they have faced stigma and discrimination as a result of their mental health," she said.
Wellways key recovery worker Kathy Musico, who is driving the local event, said the aim of the month-long activities is to "break down those stigmas".
"It's a chance to learn about mental health, be aware of the language you use, call out stigmatising language, connect with others and treat mental and physical health equally," she said.
"Our focus is to reduce the stigma that often comes with a mental health diagnosis and hopefully we can make mental health a comfortable conversation for people to have.
"Speaking up, start to challenge that stigma and some of the negative ways mental health is depicted - it's about seeing the people.
Zebras all have different stripes, no two zebras are the same - just like people.Wellways key recovery worker Kathy Musico
"But also this shouldn't just be a focus in mental health month, it's something we should be doing as a community every day."
A zebra is the Stampede's logo.
"Zebras all have different stripes, no two zebras are the same - just like people," Ms Musico said.
"Those who have partnered with us in this initiative have been provided with a large inflatable zebra. We are encouraging them and their staff to take photos with that zebra.
A mental health diagnosis doesn't define you, It doesn't define who you are, it's just part of your journey.Wellways program coordinator Kath Vangelovski
"There will also be the the opportunities for people to have photos with one at the event in Jelly Bean Park.
"Then we will put all those images together."
There will also be plenty of giveaways at the October 21 event, including squeezable stress relief zebras, stickers and importantly information on mental health.
"We are also looking for a name for our zebra mascot," Ms Musico said.
"We will be taking name entries on the day and will then pick an overall winner - who knows, there may even be a secret prize involved.
"We just want everyone to come along, get involved, raise awareness of mental health issues and break down those barriers and stigmas."
Information on Wellways' Enhanced Adult Community Living Support Service will also be available on the day.
"A mental health diagnosis doesn't define you," Ms Vangelovski said.
"It doesn't define who you are, it's just part of your journey."
"This could well be the 2020 Coronavirus Lockdown Event of the Year," Ms Musico said.
The Nowra Jelly Bean Park event on Wednesday, October 21 will be held between 10am and 2pm. COVID-19 precautions and requirements will be undertaken during the event, including social distancing and sanitiser will be available.
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