Beyondblue ambassador and 2017 My Kitchen Rules contestant Mark Virgona has shared his battle with depression countless times with schools and businesses.
But, he is particularly excited for the Blue Tie Ball in Ballarat, which, he says, will be his biggest audience yet.
Virgona will be joined by fellow contestant and best mate Chris Jongebloed as guest speakers for the sixth-edition of the event, which raises money for national mental health organisation beyondblue.
It was just over two years ago, Virgona found himself battling with depression. On the outside everything seemed to be going well for him – he had a house, a marriage and two kids.
“Everything seemed okay, but I obviously wasn’t, I let little things get to me and things got worse and worse until I crashed,” he said.
“After a few near fatal occurrences I had to make a stand and do something about it.”
Ever since, Virgona, who first shared his story while on the reality cooking show, has been speaking up to encourage others, especially males, to talk to someone when something is not right.
“Depression and anxiety are more common than what people think and if you talk to a room of 500 people, every single person there would either have had depression or know someone who has had it,” he said.
While Virgona will share his personal experiences, Jongebloed will talk about the importance of mateship and being there for a friend.
“Chris was one of the few people that really picked up on the signs when I wasn’t right and when I really needed someone he was the first one there,” Virgona said.
In the past five years, Virgona said he had noticed a real shift in how society was approaching mental health, with more and more people putting up their hands to talk about their own experiences.
“A lot of football players have been coming out saying they’ve been battling depression and that was unheard of a few years ago,” he said.
“It’s really a common thing now, people have realised it’s okay to speak out, talk about it and get the right help, so we’ve made some really good inroads.”
The Blue Tie Ball takes place on Saturday, October 28, at Federation University’s Mt Helen Campus from 6.30pm. Dress code is semi formal with a touch of blue.
A ticket includes canapes, a two-course meal, beverages, music and dancing. For more information visit federation.edu.au/bluetieball.
For 24/7 support, contact:
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Beyondblue 1300 224 636
- Suicide Callback Service 1300 659 467
- Emergency Services 000 (Triple Zero)
- Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
- Ballarat and District Suicide Prevention Network Inc 0458 913 459
- MensLine 1300 789 978
- Headspace Ballarat 5304 4777