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'I lost my brother, my son': RU OK? key to easing heartache

Sandra Keller from the Ipswich Suicide and Prevention Network and Karen Prestidge from Lifeline promote the 'Out of the Shadows and into the Light' walk to be held on September 12.
Photo: Rob Williams / The Queensland Times
Sandra Keller from the Ipswich Suicide and Prevention Network and Karen Prestidge from Lifeline promote the 'Out of the Shadows and into the Light' walk to be held on September 12. Photo: Rob Williams / The Queensland Times Rob Williams

FOR Ipswich Suicide Prevention and Awareness Network President Sandra Keller, mental illness and suicide hit very close to home.

Mrs Keller was affected by suicide twice, after two of her closest family members experienced anxiety and depression.

"I am very passionate about getting education and awareness out there about mental health issues as I lost my brother in 2002, and then my son in 2014 to suicide," Mrs Keller said.

Mrs Keller said it was difficult for families to get the support they needed. Education and awareness is what the Suicide Prevention and Awareness Network is all about.

"People don't know what services to go to, and are unaware of what the individuals own needs are. Another factor can be that somebody who is suicidal might not think they have a mental illness and might think it's an appropriate way of thinking," she said.

Each year almost one in five Australians will experience a mental illness.

Lockyer Natural Therapies Mental Health social worker Carolyn Perry said rural areas did not have as many support options when it came to mental health, particularly in areas like Laidley.

"There is a huge need but not enough staff to manage it. It would be good to have more psychologists located in rural communities," Dr Perry said. "Unfortunately, rural people often miss out. Often, when people are distressed they connect with people face to face.

"I have waiting lists for clients in Laidley, so there needs to be more incentives for mental health practitioners to work in rural communities, set up support groups and undertake community initiatives that promote hope and recovery."

Floresco Mental Health Services manager Melissa Horton said distance which was a contributing factor to people not getting the support then needed.

Floresco offers a variety of natural therapy in Ipswich.

West Moreton Hospital and Health Service director of operations Michelle Giles said mental health assessment and treatment services were available to people living in rural areas through the Ipswich Rural Community Care Team; known as the CCT.

Mrs Giles said residents did not have to travel to a major centre like Ipswich to access treatment and support.

"We have a range of services to ensure people living in more rural areas have ready and reliable access when they need to speak to someone about their mental health," Ms Giles said.

As part of Mental Health Week and RU OK? Day, the Ipswich Suicide Prevention and Awareness Network will host activities to raise awareness and reach out to people who might be suffering.

For RU OK? Day today, the network will have stalls manned by mental health practitioners. Mental Health week runs October 8-14.

Mrs Keller encouraged people to speak to a doctor if they might be suffering from a mental health issue, and to call Lifeline on 131114 if you or someone you know are struggling.

Topics:  mental illness r u ok? day suicide prevention



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