By CAITLIN CROWLEY

TOOWOOMBA’s business community is uniting behind a new initiative to transform the way mental health struggles are dealt with by the region’s individuals, families and organisations.

Charity gala “New Beginnings” is the brainchild of Sharné Consulting founder Sharné Lategan, who described the upcoming black-tie event as a launch pad for a “mental health movement” which needed to start with individuals taking ownership of how they think, talk about and respond to mental health issues in the region.

“We’ve got to do more than just acknowledge mental health as an issue for others – we’ve actually got to take ownership that we live in families, we live in relationships, we live in communities,” Lategan said. “And so, it doesn’t just happen ‘out there’, it happens and impacts everyone.

Sharné Lategan from Sharné Consulting. IMAGE: Supplied

“The moment that you’ll make true change is when you can face the truth – the truth doesn’t sit ‘out there’, everyone has to face the truth for themselves.

“Where in my family has this played out and what did I do, what could I have done differently? Where in me has this played out?

“Where in my business does this play out and what am I doing when I hear that and see that and what could I do differently? Where in our community do we see it?

“We all need to put our hands up and be the change.”

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Lategan said she envisioned a region where in 5,10 or 20 years time communities were no longer losing loved ones to suicide and children felt safe, understood and accepted because of the changes made now.

“Whatever we don’t tackle now, we’re packaging up and handing to the next generation to deal with,” she said.

“We need people to start coming together and just accepting the truth and facing the truth so that we can pave a better way for the future generations so that suicide rates go down, so that adverse mental health rates go down, so people can feel connected and belonging.

Sharné Consulting and Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce present New Beginnings.

“The best thing that you can have is true belonging and purpose and connectedness and the rest will flow from that.

“Our organisations are going to look like mistakes are ok.

“You have them (employees) be authentic, you have them be able to raise their hand when something isn’t right and you have their fellow team members supporting them.

“All of a sudden, I don’t need to take a sick day and hermit on my own because the environment I’m in is actually fostering a good space to be in – it’s good for my mental health, not bad for my mental health.

“We’re looking at communities where we’re just so much more present and true and realistic about the shit that isn’t going as well as it can, and we’ve got joint ownership of what we can do about it.”

“Hardships will be there, emotions will be there, good and bad. Anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder – all those things are there. But pretending they’re not only makes them worse and leads to adults running away from themselves for the rest of their lives.”

The email signature businesses will be using to spread mental health awareness. IMAGE: Supplied

Lategan said she was particularly excited about ‘The Cause Tree’; a media wall at the event which would be a visual representation of peoples’ commitment to do more for mental health.

Businesses can purchase a leaf to feature their logo on the tree and symbolically join the cause.

“It’s a symbolic way for you to say, ‘I stand with the cause, I stand with the commitment that I’m going to do more and I’m taking accountability for it,” she said.

Those businesses will receive a “New Beginnings” email signature (pictured above) which Lategan said was all about normalising mental health discussions in everyday interactions.

There will also be a social media page where individuals and businesses can share what they’ve done to further the cause in their own lives and organisations over the year ahead.

“It’s creating that belonging and connectedness on a topic that typically used to be buried and shamed,” she said.

Lategan said she had been overwhelmed by the swift response from Toowoomba’s business community to the October 7 event, run in partnership with Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce.

A wide range of sponsors have come onboard, from the construction sector to professional services and community organisations.

“The saddest bit for me – but I’ve never been dissuaded by it – is how few people get together, have camaraderie and wrap around difficult topics like this,” she said.

“Then you go out on a weekend and you look at the hordes of people drinking together and slurring together and numbing together and denying together and I just go, ‘What?!’

“I’m not saying you need to stop that, but I’m saying you just need to do the other side too.

“Let’s be the change by acknowledging our emotions, be curious about it, do the inner therapy do the self discovery things, the mental resilience training. Do all of it.”

For more information and to book tickets to New Beginnings, visit this website.

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