Blokes Biggest Barbecue gives mental health issues centre stage

THE fate of Robin Williams was a timely conversation held over several Ballarat tables on Friday.

Beyondblue ambassador Allan Sparkes at the Blokes Biggest Barbecue.

Beyondblue ambassador Allan Sparkes at the Blokes Biggest Barbecue.

More than 500 blokes gathered for a beer to talk about men’s mental health at the Blokes Biggest Barbecue on Friday at the Ballarat Lodge. 

Beyondblue ambassador Allan Sparkes spoke to the audience about his remarkable journey of recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic depression.

“We have to have a sense of self-worth, otherwise you are like a yacht on an ocean without a rudder,” Mr Sparkes said.

As a detective senior constable with New South Wales Police for almost two decades, Mr Sparkes was involved in two traumatic incidents in the space of 10 months.

In 1995, he led a team to locate the gunman who murdered two of his colleagues and search for their bodies. 

In 1996 he rescued a child from a drain during a flood. He was awarded the Cross of Valour for his selfless action.

Following the two incidents, Mr Sparkes’ mental health deteriorated and led to a forced discharge from the police force.

“The key aim of today is to break

down the stigma associated with mental illness,” Mr Sparkes said.

“By telling a story of recovery, it shows hope of recovery for those with a mental illness.”

As part of his healing, the father of two took his family on a 19-month boat journey from England to Australia, which he wrote a book about.

“There will be people in the room who are exposed to mental illness and they need to seek help,” he said.

Blokes Biggest Barbecue Ballarat chairman Matthew Stevens said men’s mental health was a timely conversation in the wake of Robin Williams’ death.

“It’s about men taking responsibility for their health and blokes getting together, having a beer and talking about their health,” Mr Stevens said.

Proceeds of the day will go toward the Prostate Cancer Foundation Australia, beyondblue and Child and Family Services. 

Blokes Biggest Barbecue Ballarat has raised about $120,000 for prostate cancer research in three years.

About 20,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in Australia every year.

david.jeans@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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