HIGH HOPES: Goonellabah Rotary Club president Geoff Tomkins at the Lismore Workers Club before hundreds filed in to be part of the ‘Clearing the Air on Depression’ conference.
HIGH HOPES: Goonellabah Rotary Club president Geoff Tomkins at the Lismore Workers Club before hundreds filed in to be part of the ‘Clearing the Air on Depression’ conference. David Nielsen

Breaking depression barriers

LISMORE turned out in strength to help break down the barriers surrounding depression and suicide at a conference at the Lismore Workers Club on Saturday.

'Clearing the Air on Depression' was organised by the Goonellabah Rotary Club to not only address growing issues in our society - depression and suicide - but also to shine a collective light on the myths, misnomers and stigmas that plague the issue.

Goonellabah Rotary Club president Geoff Tomkins has had first-hand experience with depression and also seen many friends struggle with the affliction.

“I grappled with depression myself for most of my life without really knowing what it was,” he said.

“It was hard on me and my family. It is only when you know what it is that you can actually do something about it.”

Mr Tomkins spoke while preparing for the day and was unsure what to expect.

“We've had a good response, but I imagine it will be an emotional experience for many,” he said.

“What we hope comes out of it is better ways for the community and individuals to deal with depression and suicide.”

He hopes the event will become an annual fixture on the Lismore calendar.

Hundreds turned up to hear a panel of experts and survivors discuss a wide range of issues and answer some salient and, at times, very raw questions delivered anonymously into drop boxes provided at the venue.

The panel was headed by the director of the Salvation Army's Suicide Prevention Program, Alan Staines, and included a range of therapists from psychologists to naturopaths.

One panel member was a sufferer of depression.

Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell spoke passionately of her own family's experiences with depression and suicide and was deeply moved by the day's experience.

“We've all grown up with the idea that you don't talk about this, that asking someone depressed about suicide might tip them over. But we know now that it is very important to ask that question,” she said.



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