Rotary Club of Victor Harbor joins forces with Lady Gaga raising awareness on Mental Health

MATES: Rotary Club of Victor Harbor members Mark Cox, Dwayne Cox, Tim Shierlaw and Mark Shields will ride 450 kilometres to raise awareness of Mental Health.
MATES: Rotary Club of Victor Harbor members Mark Cox, Dwayne Cox, Tim Shierlaw and Mark Shields will ride 450 kilometres to raise awareness of Mental Health.

International rock superstar Lady Gaga and South Australia's Rotary Club of Victor Harbor have something in common - both are campaigning for better mental health.

The singer has taken an Australian Teenage Mental Health Program and helped launch it in high schools across the United States.

Mental Health First-Aid is supported by the superstar who wants the program in every high school in the country to prevent teen suicides.

Australian Rotary Health has supported the project in research funding and the Victor Harbor club takes mental health seriously.

The club has sponsored a PhD scholarship in Rural Men's Mental Health through Australian Rotary Health and promotes mental health.

"Lady Gaga and the club are both proud to be involved with Mental Health Awareness and the education of our youth in this important field," Victor Harbor Rotarian Mark Cox said.

"We urge the youth in our community to accept that 'it is okay to not be okay' and to speak to their friends and family openly about their mental health.

"We are seeking funds to train our membership in mental health first-aid."

Last year, the club was presented with "companion awards" to acknowledge members' efforts in a bike ride from Victor Harbor to Broken Hill.

The Ocean to Outback ride raised $67,500 to support mental health research through Australian Rotary Health.

Organised by then president of the local club Mark Cox and wife Leonie, the event involved a team of 20 cyclists and 17 support crew who finished the 652-kilometre journey in eight days.

They had a police escort into Broken Hill and were met by the Mayor and Rotary District Governor Kim Harvey and other Rotary officials.

"What I believe is much more important is the fact that our club has now formed a Mental Health committee as a direct result of our experience here," Mark said.

"We always talk about wanting to do more to support mental health and by doing the bike ride, we certainly backed this idea with action.

"Watch for us around Victor Harbor helping to raise awareness of mental health. We talk about our physical health all the time, but never mental health.

"Next time you ask how someone how they are, ask them if they feel okay from a mental perspective. If you have any concerns ring Beyond Blue and ask what you can do to help."

The club is organising another ride, #Break the Cycle, which will cover 450 kilometres from Victor Harbor to Murray Bridge to Nurioopta to West Beach and back to Victor Harbor on four days from March 20.

"Club member Dwayne Cox organised the ride to encourage people to open up to discuss mental health issues in the same way as physical health issues," Mark said.

"It is often difficult for people to open up and talk because stigma has often been a stumbling block for people to either discuss or even get help, thinking that they are somehow weak or lesser than others, whereas people battling with things such as anxiety or depression are some very strong people."

The 2020 ride is being held off the back of the successful Ocean to Outback ride, but will be a non fundraising event.

"We simply ask participants to create a conversation with friends, work colleagues, relatives around Mental Health and make them genuine conversations, not just throw away lines," Mark said.

There are already 16 to 20 riders committed for the Break the Cycle Ride and anybody interested contact Dwayne Cox on 0407 213 371.

Dwayne said he has received support from NAB after hearing of the Ocean to Outback Ride in 2019.

"It all happened after our bike ride and NAB management flew me to Melbourne to talk about Mental Health. We did a 40 minute video, which in 2020 will be rolled out to 35,000 staff," Dwayne said.

Rotary Club of Victor Harbor member Tim Shierlaw will be on the ride again and was the catalyst for the first ride.

"I have been struggling with my Mental Health for 15 years and not worked for three years. I am still dealing with it. It does not go away, but activity, mates and just talking about it, helps," Tim said.

"I immediately feel better when I talk about It. There is no need to hide it. The 2019 bike ride was the start. I started riding in February and then did two thirds of the Victor Harbor to Broken Hill bike ride in March, which raised more than $67,000 to be used for Mental Health Research."

For support contact Beyond Blue - 1300 224 636, Lifeline - 131114.

This story Lady Gaga and Rotary breaking the cycle on Mental Health first appeared on The Times.