A free drink and a reminder to look out for one another greeted coffee shop customers all over the HealthWISE footprint this morning. HealthWISE shouted the morning rush in coffee shops throughout the region in an effort to reach out to both customers and small businesses struggling with the pandemic.
“With the additional pressures COVID 19 has placed on communities, families and individuals; looking out for one another is more important than ever. There are many additional challenges with isolation, businesses unable to open, and many people working from home with additional responsibilities of home schooling,” HealthWISE mental health team leader Tanya Hague said.
HealthWISE partnered with Armidale’s Fresh at 110, Tamworth’s Teamo, Coogle Cottage in Narrabri, Brooker Trading in Moree, Glen Innes store The Coffee Incident, Camp Grounds Gunnedah, Freckles in Inverell, Warialda’s Country Dust Café, the Croppa Creek Store, Bendemeer’s Beez Kneez Café and Ipswich’s Café Shakana.
Along with the free coffee, customers were offered resources on how to start a conversation on mental health with friends and family, and information about services that can help.
Proprietor Matt Fife from Coogle Café in Narrabri was pleased to partner with HealthWISE again this year for RUOK Day.
“Last year’s event was so successful,” says Matt. “People appreciated the gesture and the opportunity for my staff to check in on how they are going. With the current restrictions in place it is a great time to be involved in RUOK Day again.”
“Many people chose to ‘pay it forward’ and allow someone else to have a free coffee,” said barista Lisa. “It was lovely to see people leaving the café this morning feeling better after this small act of kindness.”
Armidale coffee shop owner David Lawton was thrilled to once again join the initiative, after a widely positive response last year.
“Everyone was surprised, and I think it just helped start those conversations around things that some people may not have front of mind,” he said.
Having personally been affected by suicide, David said the loss drove home the importance of being able to have open conversations with friends and family, and to have the ability to ask about their mental health. Fresh at 110 is also running a barbecue and selling cupcakes to support the cause.
Inverell’s Freckles Café owner Jenny Thomas has been a long supporter of RUOK Day, and was pleased to partner with HealthWISE for this initiative.
“When I think of RUOK Day, I always think of a time when I wasn’t ‘ok’ and I also think of the beautiful lives we have lost over the last 10 years from suicide. We are missing some truly special people and my thoughts go to their families as they are reminded of their loss at this time,” she said.
“I think we all get busy and sometimes forget to check on those around us, and just one conversation or kind gesture can change someone’s path. It’s also very common for people struggling to hide their pain, but we need to let them know it is ok to say you’re not ok.”
Ipswich’s Café Shakana head chef Lisa Morrow was thrilled to take part. “Mental health is a big issue in today’s society, so please ask the question. R U OK?” she said.
Owner/operator of Beez Kneez Café in Bendemeer, Tiarni Heemskerk, agreed.
“It’s a great initiative to get out into the local community services that are available to people that maybe need a little chat or a bit more attention or help with coping with life on a day to day basis,” she said.
She felt RUOK Day was important in removing the stigma of discussing our mental health. “It should be something that we can freely talk about,” said Tiarni.
“Education and medication are very important in managing mental health and suicide, but ultimately it is all about human connection. We need to invest in humanity with our time, empathy and understanding,” HealthWISE lived experience worker Donna Boughton added.
She said you don’t need to be a doctor or counsellor to help someone dealing with emotional pain or feelings of hopelessness.
“Deep listening without trying to fix the other person is very powerful and goes a long way towards helping someone who is considering taking their life.”
Having the courage to ask someone if they are thinking about suicide can be vital in helping them find a way forward, she explained.
“You will either feel silly for five minutes because the person of concern was just having a bad day, or you will feel pretty good that you just may have saved a life! Remember to seek extra support, and if the person has a plan, get them to the hospital.”
HealthWISE has long been dedicated to improving health in the community and offers a range of services across their footprint, including mental health clinicians, lived experience, Aboriginal outreach, drought and bushfire relief.
“I just commend HealthWISE with everything they do on a local level. I think it’s amazing, and as a community we really appreciate the support,” Bendemeer’s Tiarni Heemskerk said.
To learn more about the services HealthWISE offers in your area, click here. To learn more about how to have a conversation about mental health, visit ruok.org.au.
Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for 24/7 crisis support. Always call 000 if a life is in danger.