By Russell Bennett
Real stories of resilience, recovery, hope and healing have echoed right throughout the local region this year in the wake of the Bunyip State Park fires.
And they are stories with chapters still to be written.
Later this month, on Sunday 18 August, there will be a free event at the Gumbuya World Function centre as part of Mindfull Australia’s ‘Loved and Worthwhile Roadshow’.
Mindfull Australia is a registered suicide prevention charity founded by Matt Runnalls, who is originally from the Warragul area and has spent most of his life in west Gippsland communities.
Mindfull’s purpose is to encourage those affected by mental health battles to come out of the shadows of stigma through self-acceptance, and education of the wider community.
At the time he founded Mindfull, Mr Runnalls was a 24-year-old tradie who played country footy. He had no real financial worries, his professional life was in order, and he had a strong network of family and friends. But since the age of 17 he’s battled severe anxiety and depression, which led to several suicide attempts.
The ‘Loved and Worthwhile Roadshow’ involves a series of free-to-attend community events held in regional communities across Australia, hosted by Mindfull to start meaningful conversations around mind, behavioural, and emotional wellness.
The events provide a relaxed environment where people experiencing any mind health and behavioural challenges, or supporting loved ones, can come together to talk, support, listen, and find resources and information to help support them on their journey.
The upcoming event at Gumbuya World will have a significant focus on resilience, given the horrific events of earlier this year.
It will feature a number of trained professionals from organisations including Mindfull Australia, Catholic Care, and Compassionate Friends Victoria.
And, crucially, it will also involve people with experience in bushfire recovery.
The event is free to the public thanks to the vital backing of the Bunyip and District Community Bank branch.
“As hard as some of these topics are – fire recovery, mental health and suicide, and battles with drugs and alcohol – if we work on our resilience today, we’ll be better prepared for when a negative event happens because it will happen,” Mr Runnalls explained.
“A bad day is coming. The world isn’t all just roses and sunshine – it doesn’t work like that, and we’re not entitled to tomorrow. We need to use our time to build our resilience so that we can deal with the hurdles that come our way.”
He spoke about the significance of the upcoming event at Gumbuya World, which carries the theme ‘Hope, Healing, and Recovery’.
“It’s empowering the people who sit in front of us at our events to understand the impact they can have, not only on themselves, but on the other people around them with every single waking minute,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve lost your pet goldfish, you’ve lost eight mates to suicide, you’ve lost your aunt and uncle in Black Saturday, or you’ve lost your home or property in the Bunyip fires – whatever pain you’ve gone through is valid, and you have to actually deal with that pain.
“It’s the same message for everyone – hope, healing, and recovery. We’ll empower every person in that audience on 18 August to realise the importance of their words and actions, and to try and have a positive impact on those around them and their community.
“There’ll be people at this event that maybe aren’t aware of the struggles that some people are going through, but hopefully when they walk away from our event they’ll ask themselves ‘how can I help those people?’.”
The free event at Gumbuya World will be held on Sunday, 18 August. Doors open at 12.30pm for a 1pm start. To register a seat by Friday, 16 August, visit: www.lovedandworthwhile-gumbuya.eventbrite.com.au.
– Green thumbs do their bit, page 45.