Adavale Lane Community Hall hosts a Black Dog speaker

Adavale Lane Community Hall recently held a 'Neighbours Night Out' that included dinner and entertainment with a special guest speaker from the Black Dog Institute.

The idea for planning the evening came about as a committee member realised how incredibly difficult the ongoing drought was effecting her husband and all farming families, not really knowing how they were coping on the inside.

As a community centre, the Adavale committee felt it important to plan an event that could be of some benefit to the surrounding families.

The invitation was opened up to not only members of Adavale Lane Community Centre but to any families that may benefit from having a Black Dog Speaker talk about their own personal experiences with depression and the coping mechanisms they used to turn around their thoughts.

President Anthony Tollhurst addressed seated guests by introducing the Adavale Committee, Erica Mrak the Treasurer and Kellie Cantrell, Public Officer who were working tirelessly in the kitchen to make the evening run smoothly.

He talked about the monotonous feeding of sheep and carting water that farmers were living with and how the night was about getting together and having a few laughs with neighbours and friends, to relax and have a good time tonight.

Secretary Daneille Diener then acknowledged the organisations and people who supported the event. Parkes Rotary Club substantially financed the night. There to represent the organisation was Jenny Jewell, the Project Leader and Peter Thompson the Vice President.

An organisation called GIVIT who work with charities and community service providers to match donations with the people who need it the most, had an anonymous donor who gave Woolworths and bakery vouchers covering most of the cost of food for the evening.

Dave from Havannah House in Forbes and Natalie Quince from Georgias Pantry donated vegetables and dessert Cases for the event.

Coles donated a voucher, Forbes Bunnings - tables, and Shane, Heather,Peter, Bull and Theresa Green, Brian and Quentin Cantrell, Kayley and Dave Smith, Tarlia OBrien, Greg Diener and Tony Mrak helped out with the evening as well as the many dishwashers on the night.

Then our special Guest Black Dog Speaker, Wayne Wigham talked to our guests.

Wayne played for the Balmain Tigers for 10 years and has suffered from depression, later diagnosed as Melancholia since he was born.

In Wayne's early years he was sad all the time, not really knowing what normal felt like.

Sport and Rugby League made him feel better. It was a place where he made friends and it gave him an identity.

When he was playing he wasn't miserable, the endorphins released and helped to naturally treat his depression. In 1976 he was picked for the first grade Balmain team at the age of 17.

Running on to the field gave him a massive adrenalin rush.

Some days his depression was really bad and he would hide in the toilets and cry because he was so sad and depression sapped the energy from his body.

During those years he hid his depression from his teammates, not wanting to let them down.

By doing so he became exhausted, and it felt like the overwhelming sadness in his life was hopeless. He was unsure if he could make it.

Wayne retired at the age of 27 and joined the fire brigade for the next 10 years when his suicidal thoughts became stronger and stronger until he made an attempt.

His sons were 14 and 16 years of age and as a result of this they began talking about depression as an illness which was good.

But he was put on medication that didn't help him and that made him feel ill.

Wayne lost his marriage, unable to show emotion and function as a husband, and he began drinking heavily.

This is when he turned a corner.

The Black Dog Institute diagnosed him with Melancholia, a severe type of depression, not easily treated.

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The correct diagnosis meant that he was prescribed medication that gradually helped him. He learned to be disciplined and that he needed to do certain things to stay well.

This included taking medication and exercising to manage his depression.

Eventually he started to feel normal and not sad.

Not all the time, but more and more. Some advice he was given was that every time he had a bad thought, he should force 2 good thoughts in.

He started to pat himself on the back for the good things he did and not torture himself with the bad things. He respected himself that he had an illness, and not hate himself for it.

Wayne now volunteers his time as a Black Dog speaker and has travelled to many places in the past 8 years.

He shares his story with others, being a physically strong man, people listen in disbelief when he says he "cries like a baby", and that this makes him tough and honest.

He has talked to miners who have disclosed their own struggles, not ever being exposed to mental health. Country Rugby League players in remote towns have disclosed their own struggles to him after his talking session.

Wayne has also done some work with the NRL to teach players the signs and symptoms of depression, how to check in with their mates and where to seek help. Every player from under 16 and up is now well educated about mental health. The motto is: 'It takes a tough man to live with it, but it takes a tougher man to put his hand up.' And from what he's seen in the last four or five years, this message is really working.

Wayne's advice to others who might be experiencing mental-ill health

  • Speak up honestly to friends, coworkers, your GP. Anyone you feel comfortable talking to
  • Ask for help and if you are really struggling call Lifeline on 13 11 14
  • Educate yourself - Knowledge is power. If you understand the illness, you can fight it
  • Don't be ashamed. There is nothing you have thought or felt that you need to be ashamed of, just tell them everything. It's really important

Graham Charlton, the Vice President, thanked Wayne for giving up his time to speak to everyone and presented him with a gift of thanks.

The main meal, a meat pie, potato croquets, peas, baked pumpkin in pastry with cream cheese and sweet chilli sauce was served.

Followed by an array of sweets including pavlova, pumpkin pie, tiramisu, chocolate and choc orange tarts, pecan caramel tarts and choc top ice creams. Many people congregated at the bonfire out the back, and the evening finished around 3.00am. It was a worthwhile event and many people have come up us and said how much they enjoyed the night, and some have sought advice.

Wayne makes some points about Depression and the ways it can affect farmers

  1. Depression can be Chemical Imbalances, Hereditary or when we get hit with a few bad things in a row, and the body and mind can go into an anxious or depressive state.
  1. Farmers and country people have been copping whack after whack with the drought. This can push anyone into a depressed or anxious state.
  1. This is not weakness. This is how constant pressure can affect us.
  1. This is an illness, just like our bodies can get ill if pushed too hard, so can our minds
  1. The World Health Organisation has classified Depression and Anxiety as an illness, so we can't argue with them. Therefore accept it is an illness and there is no shame in getting ill.
  1. 5 Million sufferers in Australia today and 64 per cent of these don't seek help
  1. There are no other illnesses that 64 per cent of sufferers live in pain with, and don't seek help
  1. We must turn this around. The older generations must seek help so our younger generations will follow. If we do this, people won't live in grief or turn to suicide. I have an illness and I have no shame. It is just an illness like any other illness.
  1. It is treatable.
  1. Treatments will continue to improve