COLAC’S health agency wants to educate and engage people about the prevalence and causes of mental health issues.
Mental Health Week starts today and Colac Area Health’s community services division will reach out to the community focusing on education and harm minimisation.
Rural outreach diversions worker Jodie Roberts said communicating with Colac’s youths about lifestyle choices was a focal point of the week.
“My focus is on working with youth around their drug and alcohol use and often mental health plays a part in this,” Ms Roberts said.
“Mental Health Week is a great opportunity to get out into the community and I will be providing some information sessions at Colac Secondary College for the students about cannabis and their health,” she said.
Ms Roberts said she aimed to “create a space where everyone can feel comfortable talking about mental health”.
“My focus will be to educate young people about the risks of drug and alcohol use and the impact this use has on their mental health,” she said.
“Mental health can be the underlying issue that precipitates drug and alcohol use and, in turn, alcohol and drug use can impact on a person’s mental health issues.”
Ms Roberts said conveying such messages and creating a safe and comfortable environment was “significant” in dealing with mental health issues.
“People need to feel comfortable in presenting at services to deal with their mental health, because it is prevalent in our community,” she said.
“It is important that we get the message out there so people don’t feel ashamed, or isolated because they are dealing with mental health issues.
“As a community we need to accept that mental health can affect the people we know and love and we need to be equipped to deal with it when it arises.
“So we need to get the services out there so people know who they can turn to for support, advice and information.”
Sufferer apologises for behaviourby Alison Martin
DENNIS thought his turbulent life was getting on track until he went on a drinking binge, pulled a knife on police and landed in jail.
The remorseful 33-year-old Colac man has a supportive partner he describes as “his rock” and two young children who are his world.
But he has struggled with mental illness, had an alcohol problem he thought he was overcoming, and until now, didn’t realise what he had.
Dennis said he contacted the Colac Herald to tell his story because he owed the community and his family an apology.
But he also wanted to reach other people with similar problems and try to “stop just one person from going to jail”.
“I’d never been an alcoholic until a year after I got sick; I’ve been hospitalised five times for my illness,” he said, explaining the impact of mental illness on work and family.
“I take my medication and I’m really one of the lucky ones, but there are a lot of others who aren’t.”
Dennis said he was also “lucky” last month that he went to jail and was not dead.
“I’d been doing alcohol counselling for six months but I had a relapse which inflicted a lot of grief.”
Dennis said he had been drinking on September 18, had a dispute with his partner and she called the police.
The incident escalated, with Dennis threatening and assaulting police until officers subdued him with capsicum spray.
Dennis spent the next 18 days in a cell, worrying about his family and he said it was a wake-up call.
“I’ve seen a lot, experienced a lot, I’ve been homeless but I’d never been to jail before,” Dennis said.
“It’s not a nice place; it’s heartbreaking and there are just so many sad stories in there,” he said.
“I’m ashamed of what I did and I want to tell my family and the Colac community I’m sorry.”
Dennis said Colac had great support services and he “could not speak highly enough” of workers at Colac Area Health and the Department of Human Services.
“And the people here are so friendly; it’s not like in the cities where no-one even looks at you,’ he said.
“It’s a small town and I’ve disrespected it, but we’d like to be part of the community.
“We don’t want to run away from this problem,” Dennis said.
“But actions speak louder than words and now when someone offers me a beer I’ll be saying ‘no thanks, I don’t want to go to jail’.”