John Harper, a Stockinbingal sheep farmer who has become a celebrity motivational speaker on mental health, will be the special guest at a fundraising ball hosted by support services Centacare and Headspace.
The two organisations will hold the Blue and Green Tie Gala at the Yoogali Club from 6:30 pm on 26 May, with residents invited to buy tickets to contribute to the range of services they provide – including counselling, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, suicide prevention, foster care and family dispute resolution.
“It’s a fundraising event for ongoing mental health support staffing and resources, but it’s also to raise awareness about the services being offered, letting people know that help is out there,” said Tracey Febo, chief operations officer at Centacare South West NSW.
“Our farming community are having their struggles, which is why we’ve got John Harper along as a guest speaker.”
Mr Harper was struggling with depression on his farm, but overcame his problems by talking with mates – something he says men struggle to do. He is now a motivational speaker who also hosts his own popular podcast, called Mate Helping Mate.
“Around the 40-year-old mark, I was travelling well, I was a cocky shearer. I was running the family farm … I had this image of myself as a big tough bastard who could shear all day and drive a tractor all night,” he said on his podcast.
“When I hit 40, I had some health issues with regards to arthritis in my knee … so I decided to retire. Within four to six weeks I ended up with flu-like symptoms, I presumed I had Ross River fever … I went to the doctor, no Ross River fever, but I had depression.”
He refused to take medication, so decided to go back to shearing sheep, until his body couldn’t take it anymore. When he retired again, depression returned.
“I would just sit on the veranda all day … there was this slide down. My wife noticed my behaviour changed, I had mood swings … I’d forget to pay bills etc.
“I thought I was dying of cancer, so I went to the doctor. I thought he would back me up … but he said I was as fit as a mallee bull but I had depression.”
His wife and doctor convinced him to see a counsellor, who told him to talk to his mates. Eventually, a few friends got back to him and admitted they were also struggling.
“It highlighted the fact I wasn’t the only bloke getting whacked with the stick … that was the turning point in my story regarding depression and mental illness. That’s where my life turned around for the better.”
Along with Mr Harper’s talk, the ball will also feature an auction to be run by Griffith Real Estate’s (GRE) Luke Santolin. GRE’s Daniel Febo will be MC. Beelbangera band Lolohea Brothers will provide the music.
Gold sponsors for the night are Hunt & Hunt Lawyers, Yenda Producers Co-operative and Rombola Family Farms. Silver sponsors are Murrumbidgee Irrigation, SunRice, Tallented Tyres. PHL Surveyors, GRE, Stahmann Webster and the Aboriginal Medical Service.
Tickets to the ball, which includes a three-course meal, cost $100 and be purchased through EventBrite.