Cowra’s Australia Day ambassador and mental health advocate Nic Newling returned to Cowra on Monday as part of Youth Week celebrations.
Mr Newling hosted three presentations in town on Monday, including back-to-back sessions at the Cowra High School for students in years 7 to 9 and 10 to 12 from the Cowra High School and St Raphael’s Catholic School.
A third presentation, free to the public, took place on Monday evening at the Civic Centre at Cowra.
Mr Newling told the audience about the challenges and mental illnesses he faced as a teenager, how he got help and how it led him to travelling the country speaking about it. At the high school, students quizzed Nic during a Q and A.
“It’s really about empowering people to speak out and seek help and most importantly to be aware and to help one another,” Nic Newling said.
“One of the hardest things for me going through school was feeling alone. I was getting help for my depression and anxiety but I felt I couldn’t talk about it among people at my school. The feeling of being alone was probably as difficult as the symptoms of the mental illness.”
He said the reason he speaks to schools, workplaces and communities is because he needed it when he was young.
He said “it’s important for people to hear real stories”.
“I really wanted someone who had actually gone through it and could show me that things can get better. That’s what I really wanted.”
Manager of Headspace at Bathurst and Cowra Karen Golland also spoke to the students at Cowra High School about the services Headspace can provide.
“It’s great to have Headspace here and the fact they are based in Cowra makes it really easy for young people to get help from their services too,” Nic said.
“It’s a really engaged community. It’s so wonderful to see people so interested and involved in these conversations because we might try to hide it because we’re scared.”
Mr Newling said he wanted people to know that mental illnesses are common and that there’s people in the community who understand and want to help.
Cowra councillor Judi Smith thanked Nic for returning to Cowra as part of Cowra’s Youth Week program.
She said members of the Cowra Youth Council, having heard Nic speak on Australia Day, were “instrumental” in getting him back to town.
Elsewhere, the Cowra Public School has raised roughly $14,000 from its first ever kindergarten to Year 6 colour run to go towards new PE equipment and to subsidise school excursions.
More than 350 students, staff and family members took part in the obstacle course at River Park on Friday, also aimed at getting all the students together at the one same event.
“We’ve done it as a fundrasier for PE equipment and to subsidise excursions and just basically to end term one with a bang,” organiser Sam Dunk said.
“It’s to encourgage whole school involvement as well.”
As of Friday about $14,000 had been raised by the students mostly online and by doing door to door fundraising.
Prizes for each students who raised money and a class prize was up for grabs for the class which raised the most money.
Ms Dunk said the school received heaps of support from local community groups to help make the day a “great one”.
Ms Dunk, who came up with the idea and was the chief organiser, said she’d like to make it an annual event on the Cowra Public School calendar.