The end of November is shaping up to be a busy time for Narrandera. The Christmas Street Fair will involve residents and businesses and Bidgee Boxing hoping to use the opportunity to engage the community in a slightly different way..
Walk and Talk with Bidgee Boxing will be held in Kiesling Lane from 5pm on Friday November 30, which is the date of the Street Fair.
“It’s a treadmill challenge,” said Bidgee Boxing committee member Tracey Lewis.
“The idea is to have two treadmills. I’ll be on one for most of the time, and for the other one, members of the public can hop on at any time to talk about mental health services in rural areas and any difficulties they’ve faced in trying to access them.”
“We want to remove the stigma of mental health; we want to get people talking. And going for a walk is a good way to get that going. You don’t have to go to a gym, but taking a walk around the block with somebody and having a chat can start that discussion.”
The treadmill challenge will go for 24 hours, from 5pm on Friday afternoon to 5pm on Saturday afternoon.
As well as offering a chance to talk about mental health services, Bidgee Boxing will also be selling their famous pulled pork buns and having games and activities for kids.
Ms Lewis said she is seriously troubled about the lack of mental health services in rural and regional areas.
“There are services – you can ring those numbers and they’re great – but face to face is what is needed. Sometimes a voice at the end of a telephone line isn’t enough,” Ms Lewis said.
“It’s not just us. It’s Leeton, Griffith – and all of those regional towns and communities. The statistics are saying that suicides are actually going up.”
“There is one school counsellor that looks after Narrandera Public School, Narrandera High School and Leeton Public School. How are they supposed to do their job when they’re stretched across three schools and two towns?”
“I would like to see the Health Minister come down and get on the treadmill. The government needs to be held accountable for the services they aren’t delivering to us.”
“I don’t want to see another 13 year old commit suicide. Or another 18 year old, or another 30 year old,” she said.
Roughly eight people die every day in Australia from suicide. Suicide is the leading cause of death for both men and women between the ages of 15 and 44.
Suicide rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are nearly twice as high as for non-indigenous people. It’s estimated that 45 per cent of Australians will have a mental health condition in their lifetime.
Men, young people, indigenous Australians, farmers and people living in rural and regional areas are all over-represented in suicide statistics.
“Everybody has self-doubt, and everybody struggles. And sometimes our brains just don’t process trauma in a healthy way. But it’s not a sign of weakness to realise that something isn’t right and to get help. It’s a sign of strength to get help,” Ms Lewis said.
Ms Lewis wryly admitted that she had just left a counselling session herself.
“I’ve just been in Leeton to see the counsellor. But I have to travel to Leeton. I don’t really have the time to travel to Leeton; I want to be able to do these things in my town.”
Any money raised on the 30th will go towards a mental health fund at Bidgee Boxing. Ms Lewis said she hopes to be able to put it towards helping people locally.
“We might use it to bring in speakers to talk to the kids, or to run workshops. We want to keep those funds local. We need to care for each other and support people in our community,” Ms Lewis said.