There is help out there.
It's well-known that mental illness remains an ongoing issue in Ballarat, but as Mental Health Week begins, new initiatives, innovative support groups, and more people willing to sit down and listen are helping to improve the situation.
This year's focus is on art - the Ballarat Mental Health Week Working Group's annual art competition begins on Monday with exhibitions across the three Ballarat Community Health Centres, with a youth art show, in partnership with the YMCA, opening at Barkly Square on Tuesday.
There's also plenty of meetings, high teas, and other events across the district this week, including a special trauma-sensitive yoga session on October 12.
The working group is made up of organisations in the mental health space across the city, including Ballarat Community Health, Centacare, Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-Operative, Ballarat Health Services, and several others.
The week began with a performance afternoon at the Eureka Centre on Saturday, with powerful speakers and live music, with a focus on maintaining mental wellbeing - too often, the focus is on the disorder, and not the strategies people can use to stay mentally healthy.
An example is Ballarat's Wild At Heart, a project which began in Melbourne, that holds songwriting workshops for people who experience mental illness or live with a disability, to help them tell their own stories.
That's the key element, according to Mitch Rhook.
He understands first-hand the benefits this sort of self-expression can bring.
"Any kind of art, from writing, music, even just telling a story like one of our speakers today, and how it can play a role in bringing out people's story, helping them tell it, and helping them come to terms with their story (is) really important, and a really good tool to help those people, and it showcases their talents," he said.
"Our message is always trying to broaden it to the wider community, to let them know if you're struggling with mental illness or anything like that, it's fine to come and ask for help."
The working group's chairman, Paul Hartwood, said communication around mental illness is slowly improving.
"In the 30 years I've been looking at it, we have got smarter about how we approach people - we're a little less gung-ho, maybe," he said.
He added events like The Art of Mental Wellbeing were always valuable, and not just for people living with mental illness, but for the broader community.
"It's enlightening - I'm 10 years as a mental health worker, and every day there's something new I can pick up and use to help the people I support," he said.
He added everyone is invited for a movie-themed night out on November 15, with a special trivia night to help raise money for the working group's initiatives.
If you or someone you know is in need of crisis support, phone Lifeline 13 11 14.
Help is also available, but not limited, via the following organisations. The key message is you are not alone.
Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 or beyondblue.org.au
headspace Ballarat (for 12-25s and parent support): 5304 4777
Ballarat Community Health: 5338 4500
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