Josh Kennedy launches rural men’s mental health initiative

West Coast Eagles all-time leading goalkicker Josh Kennedy, helped launch the Check Mate Men’s Mental Health Initiative at the McIntosh & Son Mingenew Midwest Expo, promoting mental health support and services for men in rural areas.

After a series of losses by suicide in their community, Mingenew Resource Centre Coordinator Candice Lupton and Coorow Shire Community Development Officer Ella Budrikis began researching what was available in their community, what services were accessible and what was being done for those in need of mental health support.

When they realised there were few services available without travelling to Geraldton or Perth, they set to developing a grassroots level program to bridge the gap for rural men.

Two years on, they launched the Check Mate Men’s Mental Health Initiative for rural men to access services and to build lasting support networks in their area. The program is built on three pillars:

  • Information, ensuring each town has a wealth of information on where to go for help and how to access it within the community.
  • Education, providing workshops such as Mental Health First Aid and Tomorrow Man for rural men to develop skills to identify a mate in need, and to evaluate their own mental health
  • Support, including setting up regular sundowners in each community where men can get together and have honest and open conversations.

“We have seven communities interested in the program so far, and we are hoping that the launch at Mingenew Expo will open the door for more communities,” Candice Lupton said.

“Our ultimate goal is to have a full program package on our website where any rural community can go, take program templates and easily roll this out in their own area to support local men.”

West Coast Eagles forward Josh Kennedy sharing the Check Mate message with local men

Having grown up in the Midwest town of Northampton, West Coast Eagles forward Josh Kennedy recognised the difficulty faced by rural men when it comes to mental health support. He became a Check Mate ambassador to help launch the initiative and to encourage men to start the conversation around their mental health.

“Men are not very good at talking about their issues because it is seen as a sign of weakness, but we have to get rid of that sort of stigma,” he said.

“Men living out here, farmers in particular, are often quite isolated and they come under a lot of stress and strain because they are dealing with things they can’t control, like the weather. They need to know there are supports available to them and people they can talk to regardless of where they live.”

WA Primary Health Alliance is supporting the initiative as part of the National Suicide Prevention Trial activities in the Midwest region, with direct support from Project Coordinator Jacki Ward.

“We feel it is important to support Check Mate as part of the Trial so that they can build a strong foundation and be sustainable into the future,” she said.

“Community driven initiatives like this one are really important. It is a grassroots approach and it is what the community want. If the community are behind it then they will drive it and it is up to us to support them as best we can.”

Men attending Mingenew Expo received a Check Mate gift bag filled with resources

The Check Mate Men’s Mental Health initiative has been developed with support from the Mingenew Community Resource Centre, Mingenew Silverchain Branch Committee, WA Country Health Service and WA Primary Health Alliance.

To learn more about the Midwest Suicide Prevention Trial activities, watch our video below or visit our website.