A SMALL Riverina town touched by suicide has united to raise awareness of mental health while lifting the spirits of local people.
The people of Coolamon have formed a committee promoting positive mental health messages and events.
Young shearer Jarrod Edyvean will put his skills to the test in a bold attempt to shear for 12 hours to support suicide prevention in event called Shear For Mates this month (October).
The 23 year old has been closely affected by the loss of his uncle and one of his best mates, Blake, to suicide.
Jarrod has been getting plenty of practice ahead of the feat but said Shear For Mates would not be easy.
“I’ve been shearing every day and playing footy to keep fit and doing my own exercise,” he said.
“The pain I will go through is nothing compared with the pain we have suffered through losing our loved ones and what they must have went through.
“This is not just about Blake, but everyone else as well. We’re not the only ones who have lost someone.
“We’d be better if it wasn’t but we’re trying to do as much as we can to help.”
Jarrod has been shearing for about two years and expects to shear about 200 sheep, donated by a local farmer, with help from his shearing buddies.
The “top” and “bottom” pubs in town and local businesses are sponsoring him for $2 a sheep shorn.
He has the backing of the local committee - Music 4 Mates.
Jarrod’s older sister Kaarin, with the support of their parents Mark and Tanya, was instrumental in setting up the committee, Music For Mates, in 2013.
The family runs a mixed farming operation and were first affected by suicide when Tanya’s brother died by suicide 11 years ago.
Then, in 2013, 22-year- old Blake, who was “like the third child in the family”, suicided, Kaarin said.
“Blake was a second brother to us,” she said.
“We didn’t talk about the elephant in the room for a long time then one day we decided something needed to be done because we didn’t want anyone else to go through the pain we went through. “You feel like you need to help others when you hear it happening.” They saw a need to promote suicide awareness and prevention at a local level and started Music 4 Mates.
Kaarin, a teacher and careers advisor at the local school, said Music For Mates was a whole of community initiative.
“We called a meeting and about 60 people turned up,” she said.
“One of the council ladies was so surprised because they usually get about three people to a council meeting.
“I got up to speak and I balled my eyes out and explained why it was happening in the community and it went from there.
“We try to make all the events focus on the positive side of mental health, rather than the negative.
“We try to say, people are about you who really care for you.”
That first meeting led to the formation of a solid committee of 10 to 15 committed people who meet once a month.
They come from all walks of life, from the former football association president to a retired solicitor to different families, and they have had guest speakers from the local club.
The first event in 2014 was big and was called Music For Mates. It was a free family fun day and concert with the aim to break the stigma attached to suicide, encourage people to talk openly and promote help seeking.
Then, with the money they raised, in 2015 they offered more SafeTalk training, an alertness workshop that prepares people aged over 15 to become a suicide-alert helper.
“You learn what to ask if someone comes to you with mental health issue,” Kaarin said.
Last year the committee launched a community map of the whole of Coolamon shire, showing every health or mental health resource in every town that might be important to families. “We also created pocket wallet cards with numbers on it,” she said.
“Music For Mates is for the whole shire, although most events are held in Coolamon, but we try and involve all the different parents within our shire.
“We are looking at subsidising more mental health training next year. “Whatever money we raise is used to put on another event or training or to create resources for local community.”
Jarrod’s shearing marathon was “his way of doing something he can do”, Kaarin said.
“Shearing is one of his strengths, he wants to give back.”
Shear For Mates will include family entertainment and has the support of Wagga Wagga-based Sunflower House - One Door Mental Health, Beyond Blue, and the Wagga base hospital mental health unit.
“Hopefully we’ll raise a bit of awareness and hopefully we will save a couple of lives,” Jarrod said.
- WHEN: Saturday, October 14, 2017
- TIME: 2pm to 10pm
- WHERE: Coolamon Sport and Recreation Club
- COST: Free
- CONTACT: Kaarin Edyvean on 0427 528 363.