Mental Health Week

 

I want to take the opportunity, as this sitting week comes to an end, to reflect on some of the important conversations and events that occurred as we went through Mental Health Week this week. Many of us in here are aware that we commenced with World Mental Health Day, on Monday, and many of us started wearing our badges. I participated in the campaign to make a personal pledge on mental wellbeing, as I know many of my colleagues did. I was pleased to sign that campaign website and make my personal pledge, which was to give back to my local community through something both fun and meaningful. There was a great range of options for people to consider signing up to. That is still operating, and I would encourage people who are interested in supporting it to go onto the website, make their own pledge and be part of a very important initiative.

 

I have to say, there has been much discussion—I have participated in the appropriation debate today—reflecting on the period of the election campaign and what has happened since. But there is one image that has stuck in my mind particularly from the period of the election campaign, and that was when our leader, Bill Shorten, was at the Sky News People's Forum in Brisbane. He was asked a question about suicide, and he asked members of the audience to put their hands up if they knew someone who had attempted to take their own life. To be honest, I was quite shocked by the number of people in that room—from a random group of people brought together with nothing to do specifically with mental health—who had known a friend or family member who had been touched by this terrible circumstance. It is good that the profile of this issue is being raised, and I know colleagues from all around this chamber have been very active in their own electorates in talking about raising suicide awareness and how we can as individuals, families and communities help to eliminate suicide.

 

Part of the reason that I am very conscious of the suicide campaign issues in my own electorate is the work of my own headspace organisation. Tuesday was National headspace Day as part of Mental Health Week. I hardly feel I need to make any explanation in this place about the work of headspace, because it is so well known, well regarded and supported across all parties. I was pleased in May 2008 to attend the commencement of our own local headspace service. They have provided an excellent and very important service to our community in the years since then. On Tuesday I put a post up about National headspace Day and a photo from 2008. One young local woman commented on my post, and I think it captures why they are such a significant service. She said:

 

I wouldn't be where I am today if this amazing group of people didn't help me to see the light at the end of a very dark tunnel!! Can't speak more highly about an organisation who is truly there to support young people going through a tough time in their own heads!!

 

I think that beautifully captures the important work of headspace.

 

Today, headspace held a local Walk of Pride. Our local candidate for the Wollongong by-election, Paul Scully, was there. I would definitely have been there if we were not in this place. This evening they are having a Living Book session about mental health at the Wollongong Library. Importantly, carers and ARAFMI Illawarra are involved in those activities as well. About a month ago—in fact, the evening before World Suicide Prevention Day—I joined the local headspace and Lifeline supporters at the Wollongong Lighthouse for their Out of the Shadows and into the Light Walk. There were about 120 people there on a very cold and windy evening. I think it showed the great support there is in our communities to arrest these issues.

 

Finally, I want to acknowledge a local journalist, Angela Thompson, from the Illawarra Mercury, who did a very important article about a local organisation that has been formed to take a collaborative approach to suicide.

 

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