Mental health group gearing up for Christmas

IT WAS the suicide of her 32-year-old son, Barry, in 1994 which led Barbara Swain to start the Mental Health Support Group nine years ago.

“I had to turn my grief into something positive. This is his legacy,” Mrs Swain said.

Barry took his own life after a long battle with depression, which he had managed to keep hidden until the final months of his life.

“For 14 years we had no idea,” Mrs Swain said.

Now her group of around 35 volunteers provides practical support for people living with mental illness.

“It's a hand up, not a handout,” Mrs Swain said.

The group provides toiletries, clothing, books and magazines to people in the mental health unit at Lismore Base Hospital.

Mrs Swain said when people arrived at the unit they often had nothing.

“We act as their family,” she said.

The group also provides support to people with mental health issues who are transitioning into the community by providing them with all the things they need to set up a comfortable home.

“Furniture, sheets, cutlery, towels, everything,” Mrs Swain said.

The group also organises monthly social outings, and Mrs Swain is a regular speaker at Rotary, Probus and church groups.

“I try to destigmatise mental health issues,” Mrs Swain said.

“People do not want to talk about mental health because they are afraid of being seen as different,” she said.

The group relies totally on donations to carry out its vital work.

This Christmas it will be providing 430 presents for people living with mental illness and putting on a Christmas lunch.

Anyone who would like to donate gifts can contact Barbara Swain on 6628 7936.

The Mental Health Support Group is part of The Northern Star's Adopt a Family campaign.



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