Working dogs a saviour in the bush
THE hardest thing for Wayne Flintham about losing a mate to suicide was that he did not even realise his friend was struggling.
"I think I rang him on the phone a week before Christmas and I didn't pick up on it at all,” he said.
"Obviously he needed help, but we couldn't pick it up.
"It definitely shook me up and everyone else who knew him too.”
To try and improve mental health in rural areas, Wayne's Australian Stockdogs Magazine is hosting dog schools across the country that will fundraise for Beyond Blue.
So far trainers, as well as keen participants, have been locked in for the weekend schools that will be rolled out through March and May.
All Wayne needs now is some corporate sponsors to help cover the logistical costs for livestock transport, venue hire and hay.
The goal is to run schools in every state and raise a minimum of $30,000 for Beyond Blue. It's a mammoth task, and ambitious target to reach, but Wayne is quietly confident for success.
"Rural mental health is something everyone needs to talk about,” he said.
"Working dog schools bring the bush people out, so hopefully we have a speaker at each event and at lunch time they can talk about their experiences and tell people where they can find help.
"We are probably targeting this at the individual, but it's important to remember that friends, families and communities are impacted by this.”
The Australian Stockdogs Magazine launched the fundraiser by posting an emotive video of Wayne talking about his own grief when his friend, Wayne Tibbs, died by suicide in 2015.
Since then comments, as well as personal stories from people in the bush who have battled anxiety and depression, have flooded through to Wayne's office.
"We are going to run them in the magazine,” he said.
The stories, which are incredibly powerful, have a common theme.
"People are talking about dogs, in some way, helping them through their lowest points,” he said.
"In the rural industry we deal through floods, drought, you know there has been the dairy crisis just recently and there was the live export ban a while ago.
"Although there are highs and lows in every industry, the rural industry seems to cop a really bad rap.”
Already some of Australia's best trainers, including dog trialling champion Paul Rowe, have come on board with the initiative.
For more information about the charity event, visit the Australian Working Stock Dog Facebook page. Those wanting to support the event can contact Wayne by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone who is in need of help can call 24-hour hotlines.
Lifeline: 13 11 14
MensLine Australia: 130078 99 78