R U OK? Day: Port Macquarie-Hastings mental health advocates comment on importance of checking in

Follow up for R U OK?: Port Macquarie's Ben Cudmore.
Follow up for R U OK?: Port Macquarie's Ben Cudmore.

Port Macquarie-Hastings community groups and individuals are advocating for heightened awareness when it comes to supporting people who are experiencing a tough time with their mental health.

R U OK? Day is on Thursday, September 10 for a national day of action to remind people every day is the day to ask, "are you ok?"

According to Lifeline, eight Australians die every day by suicide and 75 per cent of those who take their own life are male.

Suicide is also the leading cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15 and 44.

Beyond Blue has reported it's estimated 45 per cent of Australians will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime.

'Are you ok?' should be all year round 

Port Macquarie's Ben Cudmore knows what it's like to hide away and deal with mental health issues with substance abuse, rather than tackle them with a clear mind.

"It's hard to step into that vulnerability when you feel guilty and shameful," he said.

The ex-rugby league star has struggled with drug addiction, mental illness and financial loss.

Mr Cudmore speaks openly about his mental health battles via hosting the Happy Days podcast and is passionate about helping other people.

Mr Cudmore also the co-founder of new mental health group, Self Seen (Self Empowered Love Framework Secures Every Essential Need) in Port Macquarie.

The group conducts community walks and workshops to help those suffering in silence.

When Mr Cudmore was going through his tough times people often commented about his behaviour rather than speak to him directly about it.

He's encouraging people to ask 'are you ok?' throughout the year and follow up with those who might respond with no.

"Ask them the question rather than judge them," he said.

Mr Cudmore said some workplaces are very toxic and it can be hard for people to open up on how they're feeling in those environments.

"That's the sad part about going downhill (with mental health) because you're too afraid to open up," he said.

Mr Cudmore said despite people distancing themselves from their loved ones when they are experiencing tough times, it's important family and friends remain connected for support.

He said conversations can help link people with the appropriate professional help when they're ready.

Richard Curry is a member of the Laurieton Men's Shed.

Richard Curry is a member of the Laurieton Men's Shed.

Connection through the Men's Shed 

Laurieton Men's Shed vice president Richard Curry said he's experienced some issues with his mental health in recent times but connection to the group and others is what's kept him going.

The shed is all about caring for men's health by keeping retired members busy in the workshops and by linking them to health services when needed.

Mr Curry's partner has Alzheimer's Disease and is currently living in a nursing home.

He said it's an awful feeling to be isolated from the person who you love.

"I need the Men's Shed to give me something to do and someone to talk to," he said.

Mr Curry has encouraged others to connect with the shed, due to them suffering from issues including depression.

"Once they're here you can see the change within minutes," he said.

Port Macquarie midwife Megan Nourse practices privately and recently opened Port Macquaries first stand-alone midwifery clinic called Birthsisters Family Hub.

Port Macquarie midwife Megan Nourse practices privately and recently opened Port Macquaries first stand-alone midwifery clinic called Birthsisters Family Hub.

Postnatal support for isolated mums 

Port Macquarie midwife Megan Nourse said the isolation experienced by new mums has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to health restrictions women are only allowed to have one birth partner during labour.

In most cases pregnant women are also participating in antenatal classes via video conferencing.

"We got this constant disconnect that women are experiencing," Ms Nourse said.

"Women are also really frightened to got out because they don't want to put their baby at risk."

Ms Nourse said it's really important to check in with women at this time.

"The R U OK? Day is a great incentive to prompt people to ask others if they are really ok," she said.

Ms Nourse said there are a lot of things people can do to support others, such as dropping round food or helping with a basket of washing.

For crisis support people can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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