A group of 504 individuals donning elephant costumes has united to address the ‘elephant in the room’ by highlighting the often hidden percentage of young people with mental health issues in regional and rural Australia.
Alongside breaking the world record attempt for the largest number of people dressed as elephants, the group also raised $500,000 dollars for the New South Wales Positive Rugby Foundation and health organisation batyr’s Get Talkin’ Tour initiative, which brings mental health education to regional New South Wales communities.
"Through the Get Talkin’ Tour, we’re aiming to create an initiative that builds foundations for positive mental wellbeing in regional communities,” Jon Davies, CEO of batyr, told news.com.au. “By connecting with the local rugby clubs, training local ambassadors on how to speak safely about mental health and empowering them to start positive conversations in their community, we hope to make a long-lasting impact.”
The tour will begin on Nov. 17 and visit towns including Orange, Walgett, Cowra, Narrabri, and Dubbo to ensure people in regional communities throughout New South Wales have the ability to take charge of “their own wellbeing and that of their mates.”
Nationwide, 1 in 5 Australians will experience a mental health condition in any given year. Alarmingly, those in regional areas are considerably more likely to suffer than those in major cities thanks to increased stigma, a lack of mental health services, isolation, and loss of income due to drought pressure. Individuals from rural and regional New South Wales communities are twice as likely to die by suicide than Sydney-dwelling people, news.com.au reported.
Similar to the relationship between regional communities and mental health is the that of mental health and poverty. According to Mental Wellbeing Manager at VicHealth Irene Verins, the correlation is thoroughly intertwined.
"Unemployed people and people with low incomes often experience poorer health and mental wellbeing than the rest,” she told SBS, before claiming the all-encompassing impact of poverty generates mental stress that leads to a heightened likelihood of depression and anxiety.
"As the gap between rich and poor is getting greater [in Australia], the potential negative impact on mental illness and mental health will also become greater. That's why we're really concerned about it.”