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It’s okay not to be okay.

A singular compelling message resonated through a packed Warracknabeal Community Centre on Tuesday night.

“Talk to someone.”

Just three words but they were delivered continuously as each expert presented to more than 150 people during the Hardest Kick mental health forum. Presenters delivered impassioned stories of young people who had tragically taken their lives after being unable to overcome their dark disease.

But they all delivered an important message that there are people whom they can talk to and who will listen and help them. Consultations with these highly trained people are free and confidential.

Wimmera PCP mental health officer Lissy Johns kicked off the night and told about her own family tragedy. Lissy was followed by Rural Outreach worker Mal Coutts who shared his own experience with suicide.

The message from both included signs that were overlooked through a lack of knowledge and understanding from the era. They also spoke of the importance of talking about suicide and bringing it into the open.

Royal Flying Doctors Service counsellor David Turnbull and Rural Northwest Health social worker Sandra Telfer confirmed the various free and confidential services available to everyone. Pat Timmons from Rural Financial Counsellors spoke of the free financial advice available to our farmers.

Yarriambiack Medical Clinic’s Dr Franklin Butuyuyu talked about the support GPs could provide to anyone experiencing mental health issues. In an enlightening address, Dr Franklin elicited chuckles from the crowd when he drew parallels to our lack of understanding to mental health with his own toils to comprehend the music favoured by his teenage sons.

Guest speaker, former football champion and Beyond Blue ambassador John Sudholz began his talk by asking for a show of hands from anyone who knew someone who had taken their own life. John spoke of his contentment with life as an elite sportsman but after he returned to farming at Rupanyup he began experiencing deep anxieties.

John, who kicked more than 60 goals in one season playing at centre half forward for South Melbourne, found playing football even at the highest level possible to be relatively easy. After seven years he returned home with a wife and young family to take control of the family farm but agribusiness was not as natural for John as was football or cricket.

He struggled and was unable to talk to anyone about it. His life hit a low point early one morning when he wandered out to the shearing shed before dawn.

John’s wife feared it would be the last time she saw him. It wasn’t. Now John is happy to tell everyone who will listen that he is a survivor and for more than 20 years, he has remained in control of his past demons.

He again echoed the key delivery that if you are finding yourself struggling, talk to someone. “Talk to someone close first and if you can’t do that, contact a professional. They are all here tonight,” John said.

“Always remember, it is okay not to be okay.”

Several presenters asked that everyone be more aware of a change in behaviour of family members or friends. If you notice someone withdrawing, take them aside and ask them if they are okay.

If you need to talk to someone, contact a worker from the Rural Outreach Program. It costs nothing to talk. They will listen, talk things through and support you to link to other services you may need.

These workers are not professional clinicians. They are someone to whom you can talk and they are trained to guide you toward the right support for your personal needs.

Event organiser and RNH health promotions officer Kelsey Hamilton said the successful evening was a wonderful partnership of support.

“Wimmera PCP provided important funding and Warracknabeal Neighbourhood House did a great job promoting the event,” Ms Hamilton said.

Warrack Eagles Football Netball Club made sure everyone enjoyed a great dinner,” she said.

“People of all ages attended and we were just amazed at the response.”

Warrack Eagles president Chris Taylor agreed the event was a huge success.

“We appreciate Rural Northwest Health including us in such an important event and I know our club members gained a lot from it,” Mr Taylor said.

“We had great representation from junior and senior players as well as our volunteers and the presenters gave us all plenty to think about,” he said.

“Many of our club members have felt the pain from suicide and it’s good to know support is available to all of us.

“As a club we want to work more closely with our community and its services because we all need to stick together for our town’s future.”


** To talk directly to a counsellor from Royal Flying Doctors, phone 03 8412 0480 or email:

** To talk to a Rural Outreach worker, phone

** To talk to a social worker at Rural Northwest Health, phone 1800 667 301

** To talk to a Rural Financial Counselling Service counsellor, phone 1300 769 489



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