In honour of mental health awareness month and in memory of one of Marrar’s greatest athletes, local charity Good Talk has partnered with Junee Licorice Chocolate Factory to raise awareness of and funds for research into bipolar disorder.
Good Talk was formed after 28-year-old AFL player Graeme “Reidy” Reid lost his life to suicide after years of struggling with bipolar disorder, too ashamed to tell any of his friends.
Graeme, who played first-grade AFL in the Farrer League, took his own life seven years ago, and now his family and the business partnership are encouraging other men to speak out about any struggles they may be having during mental health awareness month (October).
Graeme’s sister Fran Godde and brother Zach Walgers and the family launched Good Talk, partnering with University of New South Wales Professor Philip Mitchell, whose research focuses on the development of bipolar disorder in young people (Bipolar Kids and Sibs Study).
A childhood friend of Graeme’s family and Junee Licorice Chocolate Factory manager, Rhiannon Druce, wanted to do something to try and highlight the actions of Good Talk.
“Regardless of knowing of the family, it is an excellent initiative for our region,” Ms Druce said.
“The concept behind it is powerful and the importance of having a chat and regularly checking in with your friends.
“There are many initiatives out there, but this is trying to introduce into normal life and create a pattern where you regularly want to check in with your friends and family.”
Junee Licorice Chocolate Factory created pink almonds – roasted almonds coated in organic couverture white chocolate finished with raspberry powder.
“We didn’t want to create something typical … we wanted to showcase what we’re trying to raise awareness for, and that is bipolar,” said Ms Druce.
“So putting a roasted crunchy almond with creamy white chocolate and then pairing it with a tart raspberry flavour … it showcases the emotional rollercoaster of bipolar, in chocolate.
“You experience a lot of different flavours with the chocolate, and that’s what you experience having bipolar. The highs, the lows and all the in-betweens.”
Good Talk co-founder Ms Godde, said her family was excited to create a chocolate that would be used to raise awareness about bipolar.
For Mental Health Month, Ms Godde hopes to spread the word and encourage people to reconnect and check in on each other.
“We are in a fortunate position that we have seen since the beginning of our charity a lot of friends, team members, and family reach out to get help.
“A lot more younger men are having conversations and regular catch-ups with people who have been struggling who have reached out … nice to see the ripple effect.”
Professor Mitchell said the study aimed to find predictors or warning signs that clinicians could focus on to either prevent the illness from developing or to catch it early to stop the illness from progressing.
For the study, Prof Mitchell recruited 160 young people, mainly from the east coast of Australia, who have a parent or a sibling with bipolar.
“We’ve been following them for about 12 years to identify predictors … clinicians need good signals or predictors to indicate a young person at high risk,” Prof Mitchell said.
“We published a paper in the major American Journal of Psychiatry last year thanks to the funding from Good Talk.
“We showed that before the illness develops, you can see changes in the brain’s structure. We’ve been doing very sophisticated structural connectivity studies where you can map out the pathways and the brain.
“We found pathways involved in emotional and thinking control are developing more weakly and slowly in young people at risk to bipolar.”
Prof Mitchell said the research was one of the most important studies he had done in his career.
“It’s critical research and we’re one of the small number of groups around the world doing this,” he said.
“Once we identify strong predictors of illness, these can become targets for future treatments.”
Prof Mitchell said bipolar was a strongly inherited condition in which 80 per cent of the cause was genetics and there were no clear signs of who would develop the illness.
The pink almond chocolate box can be purchased via the Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory website.
Good Talk is set to launch its new website (www.goodtalk32.com).
Anyone experiencing distress can seek immediate advice and support through Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), or the digital mental health gateway, Head to Health.
If you are concerned about suicide, living with someone considering suicide, or bereaved by suicide, the Suicide Call Back Service is available at 1300 659 467.