Business leaders gather to end stigma of mental health
AFTER decades of working in the Fraser Coast's business community, Darren Bosley knows the need for more mental health services in the community.
The president of mental health awareness group, Fraser Coast Mates, said more needed to be done to get business leaders to understand how the stigma of mental health issues like depression and anxiety affected employees.
Mr Bosley said out of the dozens of businesses he had spoken to over the last year, at least 90% of them relayed personal stories of colleagues who were struggling with their health.
"Mental illness seems to be more discussed from a societal point-of-view than ever before, but it's still not quite fully understood," Mr Bosley said.
"The biggest issue we're up against is people asking 'Where do I go? Where do I send this person for help?'
"That's why we want to work with businesses, to make sure we can point them in the right direction and raise awareness of the help services."
Fraser Coast Mates was formed by business leaders across the region last year to combat the stigma of mental health and raised about $25,000 through community fundraisers and sporting events.
Its formation comes at a time of high mental health rates for the Wide Bay region.
Data from the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service revealed 65,454 people were admitted to the region's hospitals over 2015-16.
But the group has a personal story of losing someone to mental illness.
"We all knew this particular gentleman who was on the committee, a father of two, larger than life and always had a smile on his face," Mr Bosley said.
"But he had hidden demons and was fighting battles that he didn't share, and in the space of a few weeks he took his own life.
"We were shocked, we had no idea of his situation.
"For us, this group is about helping people reach out and show what's going on inside."
Member Bob Wicks said he didn't realise "how badly some people were off" during workshops with Fraser Coast Mates.
"I was amazed at how many people were in strife and at risk," Mr Wicks said.
"It's sad to know how many people actually hurt themselves."
Fraser Coast Mates' ultimate goal is to have a full-time mental health counsellor on the Fraser Coast to help build the bridge between reaching out and getting help.
The group will host a corporate tennis challenge at the Hervey Bay Tennis Club next week, their first fundraising event for 2018.
Fraser Coast Mates events
February 23 - Corporate Tennis Challenge, Hervey Bay Tennis Club, 4pm-8pm
March 2 - Comedy Lunch with George Smilovici, Maryborough Sports Club, noon start. $100 per head includes a two-course meal with three hour drinks package.
April 12 - Rally for a Cause dinner, Beach House Hotel from 6pm. Special guest Angry Anderson will attend.
June 22 - Annual Golf Day, Hervey Bay Golf Club from 10.30am.