WITH at least three suicides in as many years in West Wyalong, depression is acknowledged as a significant and devastating issue in the community.
That is why it was an apt choice of location for the launch of a major nationwide campaign yesterday that aims to get people asking, “R U OK?”
An initiative by the R U OK? Foundation, Wagga residents should keep their eyes out for a giant yellow question mark about the size of a phonebook being passed around in the coming weeks.
The question mark is fitted with a GPS device and tweeting capabilities and is the centre of the campaign.
The hope is that it will be passed around from person to person as they ask whether they are OK.
This yellow question mark is one of five to be released in states across Australia and on September 12 the total distance they have travelled will be shared.
NSW Nationals deputy leader Adrian Piccoli launched the campaign yesterday in West Wyalong.
“It breaks down social barriers surrounding mental health and depression,” he said.
“This is getting people to not just speak about it but ask about it.
“It’s good that the NSW question mark is being launched in regional NSW, because this is even more important in regional areas.”
Ambassador for R U OK? and president of the West Wyalong Rugby Club, Tim Long, knows the importance of what is trying to be achieved.
He suffers from bipolar disorder and has tried to take his own life three times.
The last time he tried to commit suicide, there were a few people who came to him afterwards and said they could see something wasn’t right.
They told him they didn’t say anything because they didn’t know how to approach it.
“In 2007 after a major depressive episode I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and over the next three years I attempted suicide three times,” he said.
“Basically I hid the fact I was in a depressive state from my family and friends and everyone else – I hid it very well.
“I was working full-time, studying for a doctorate, playing first-grade cricket and sitting on the boards of a number of cricket groups.
“Everyone thought everything was perfect. My depression got worse and got to a point where I couldn’t go on.
“The big point is some people could see something wasn’t right but didn’t know how to bring it up.
“It’s important people get asked if they are OK and this campaign is all about raising awareness for this.”
Mr Long said the issue of suicide was huge in the West Wyalong region.
He said the Bland Shire mayor, Neil Pokoney, had told him that during his time in the area he’d heard of two school children and six adults taking their own lives.
Since Mr Long moved to West Wyalong in 2010 he said he knew of three suicides taking place.
“It’s an issue that doesn’t get talked about,” he said.
For advice on how to ask someone if they are OK and to see an interactive map on where the yellow question mark is travelling, visit ruokday.com.
IF YOU NEED HELP
Lifeline – 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800
MensLine Australia – 1300 78 99 78