General News — 12 February 2015

CHALLENGE: Beyondblue national roadshow community engagement co-ordinator Bronwyn Collins chats to homeless man John at the Wollongong Homeless Hub on Monday. - Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

HUNDREDS of communities will be paid a visit by beyondblue’s national roadshow tour, which kicked off last May. The ‘‘big blue bus’’ will have travelled more than 50,000 kilometres and visited hundreds of communities by May this year. Illawarra homeless man John*, 45, praised the initiative, which he felt was particularly valuable for men who were often reluctant to speak up about their problems. ‘‘I’ve got depression and anxiety, social phobia and paranoia,’’ he said.  ‘‘If I tell someone I’m depressed, I’m a big wuss – if I don’t tell them, then I suffer in silence. That’s why it’s great that beyondblue is travelling all over the country, to regional and rural areas, to talk to people about depression and anxiety. ‘In some of these communities, say Mount Isa for instance, men are supposed to be men and they’re not supposed to talk about their feelings. If they’re encouraged to open up through this program, then that’s great.’’

Life on the streets is tough for John, but he reckons admitting to depression or anxiety can be tougher. John was among the Wollongong Homeless Hub clients who enjoyed a free breakfast – and advice – from mental health organisation beyondblue last week as part of the roadshow tour. John is a ‘‘couch surfer’’ who is often forced to sleep rough in parks, cars or under buildings when he’s outstayed his welcome on various mates’ couches.  He said alcohol and drug addiction, as well as family problems, led him to this life. ‘‘I’ve got heaps of support from [the Kenny Street hub] – they give me breakfast and let me use the phone and help me use the computer,’’ he said. ‘‘beyondblue has given me some good information too and a card I can call 24-7 if I feel suicidal or want to unload some of my shit.’’

There’s 1500 people homeless on any given night in the Illawarra and Wollongong.  Homeless Hub spokeswoman Leanore Sorbello said it was vital for services to work together. ‘‘It’s really significant when services can work collaboratively to support people,’’ she said. ‘‘It provides a holistic approach.We were at the Nowra Show at the weekend where we spoke to some teenage girls who told us a number of their mates had committed suicide while many more had issues with meth use,’’ beyondblue’s Andrew Johnston said. ‘‘Here [in Wollongong], we’ve heard how being homeless isn’t just about not having a roof over your head, but having no connections to community or family too, which can contribute to mental health issues.’’

*Not his real name

This article and image first appeared The North West Star, 10 February 2015.


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