Looking beyond the stigma of mental illness

ARARAT - beyondblue was in Ararat recently as part of a new national depression and anxiety awareness campaign.

An information stand was set up in Barkly Street to provide people of all ages with advice on how to get help, if and when they need it.

Grampians Medicare Local mental health team leader Barry Sherwell said it was a very worthwhile couple of days.

"We introduced people to beyondblue and other mental health service providers by providing general information about mental health including anxiety and depression," he said.

"People talked about their own situation and as a clinician myself I was able to talk with them about what they could do next."

Mr Sherwell said the response from the community was encouraging with people becoming more open an accepting of mental health.

"There is still an unfortunate level of stigma attached to mental health issues," he said.

"This is something we've been trying to overcome for a long time, we've gained some good ground, made some progress but there is still a way to go.

"By holding information sessions like this people become familiar with it and that helps normalise talking about it."

Mr Sherwell said he offered people a combination of practical measures to seeking treatment including to consult their local doctor - which is always a crucial first point of call.

"Anxiety and depression affects people from every walk of life and there are several ways for people to get help," he said.

beyondblue CEO Kate Carnell AO said the organisation had partnered with Medicare Locals across Australia for the awareness campaign.

Ms Carnell said the check 'n chat presented a good opportunity for people to familiarise themselves with the facts about mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, and find out what support is available locally.

"Over two million Australians have anxiety and more than one million experience depression - these are very common conditions. Unfortunately, 65 per cent of people experiencing a mental health condition don't seek help.

"We want people to be able to identify the signs and symptoms of these conditions so if they are having a tough time, they know what action to take," she said.

Mr Sherwell guaranteed that there would be events of a similar nature in Ararat in the future.

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