Fighting mental health stigma in rural and remote QLD
REMEMBERING his very first job at the Gracemere Saleyards 11 years ago, Tim Saal remembers how different people's perceptions of mental health were.
Rural and Remote Mental Health's manager described the moment a group of older men 'ran away' when mental health was brought up.
Mr Saal says he has seen first hand how stigma has shifted for the better but, he says there is still a long way to go.
"People just need to understand that it is not difficult to have that open communication," he said.
"If you are a caring person there is very little you can actually say that is wrong, and having that conversation is critical." Mr Saal says there are three critical "musts" when starting a conversation around mental health; knowledge, understanding and confidence.
"The most important thing is having the confidence to start those difficult conversations," he said.
"Having the confidence in how to have that conversation, and knowing that having an early conversation does work, can turn things around.
"It is critically important to get onto this early."
While he acknowledges there has been major shifts in how we approach mental health, particularly with men, Mr Saal says we can always do better.
Mental health is a major issue for people in rural and remote areas and Mr Saal says more awareness for the issues faced in these areas would go a long way to breaking down barriers and removing stigmas.
He says any attention to the topic is a help.
"The more we talk about it ... by the time we get sick of saying it, people are just starting to hear it. "That's why I got into this field, not just because I'm big enough and ugly enough and I can talk under wet cement, but because I've lost a couple mates and it's just not right. "They are preventable deaths that we can certainly do something about."
Mr Saal recently told more than 100 landholders at a Fitzroy Basin Association forum they needed to prioritise their mental health, not just their business.
You need to focus on yourself and your health before the business because you are the number one asset," he said. "You have got to look after yourself, because often we put ourselves last.
"If you don't have yourself running well then nothing else will run well."
He says he gets mixed reactions from different places while working across Queensland but the work he does makes a difference to rural communities.
"It's still a mixed reaction because of the stigma that still surrounds mental health," he said.
"The bottom line is when we stay silent, that's all anyone will hear, so we have to talk.
"We shouldn't be afraid to have those difficult conversations."
NATIONAL 24/7 CRISIS SERVICES
1. Lifeline: 13 11 14
2. Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
3. MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78
4. beyondblue: 1300 22 46 36
5. Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800