Since The Echo last spoke to Lennox Head’s Jackson Connellan, from The Healthy Minds Club, things have become even busier.
Formed originally in response to a series of mental health crises among local young men, The Healthy Minds Club now has over 500 FB group members, 1,300 Instagram followers and a growing real world presence which is extending beyond the Northern Rivers.
‘Yep, we’ve got a fair bit going on,’ said Jackson Connellan. ‘We’ve got a teenage mental health first aid initiative that we’re going to be running from July through to November. We’re looking to educate 1,200 students in the Ballina Shire, and it’s being funded by eight local businesses in the area, they’ve contributed $8500 to that.’
Mr Connellan explained that the next plan is to get mental health training implemented directly into the public school system. ‘The idea is to introduce a separate mental health program – not the teenage mental health first aid – but a program called ASK, and that’s delivered by Prevent Consultants. That’s our new workplace mental health consultancy company.
‘It will be a more effective course,’ said Mr Connellan. ‘Instead of having to deliver it over two full days, we can go into workplaces or schools and knock it out in 2-3 hours.’
Spreading the word
When The Echo spoke to Jackson Connellan on the weekend he was about to head to Coffs Harbour. ‘Yes, myself and Lachlan Jones [co-founder of THMC] have just been invited to say a few words at a punk-rock-grunge concert that’s in the name of mental health, so they want us to come down there and have a bit of a chat.
‘The Coffs Harbour crew are all pretty keen on The Healthy Minds Club. I think they want to get a bit of an idea of how they can set something up themselves, and find the different resources they need to get going. So we’ll have a chat at the concert for about half an hour between a couple of sets, and spread some good messages.
‘It’s a quite a different scene down there so I’m looking forward to it.’
But that’s not all…
On 20 June, The Healthy Minds Club have a BBQ beach social catch up planned, on Seven Mile Beach. ‘That’s at 8am, just near the beach access,’ said Mr Connellan.
‘Then the next thing is fully booked out, but on 26 June we have a community mental health first aid program we’re going to be running, so we’ve filled those 25 spots, but there’s still plenty of availability for those courses, via our Instagram. I think we have openings in August, September, October and November if people want to jump in on that.
‘Also we’ve got a free men’s yoga and meditation session on June 26 at 9.30am, and people can access that via Lennox Yoga.
What about Mate for Mate?
‘That was meant to be for today,’ said Mr Connellan. ‘It’s a fitness challenge where you put together a team of five and you compete to race to get to ten kilometres on different kinds of machinery.
‘We had to postpone that although we had four teams entered, due to injury with rugby and sport and whatnot, people had to pull out, so that’s been postponed until November.’
With so much happening, Jackson Connellan has had to give up his former tour-guiding job since The Healthy Minds Club became ‘quite intense’.
‘It’s pretty much a full time job now,’ he said. ‘I’m working on my own transition into the professional field, in mental health. The more I explore this kind of work, the more I want to help people, and the more time I want to commit to doing that, so it’s all really exciting.
‘I’m lucky enough now to be in the position where I can earn a living through facilitating the mental health, and continue to grow the charity, so it’s quite an exciting time for me. But there’s lots of work to be done!’
Are the other fellas putting in as many hours?
‘Not quite as many as I’ve been putting in, but they’re all still very active,’ said Mr Connellan. ‘There are eight of us on the board of directors now, and every single person’s active, although they don’t all have as much time to donate to the club as I do. But they all help in huge amounts in their own way.’
And is Coffs Harbour the furthest you’ve travelled for an event? ‘Yes, we haven’t been outside the Northern Rivers for an event before, so it’ll be nice to get down there. Maybe we can set up a Healthy Minds Club down in Coffs Harbour, or help them to get their own mental health resource down there.’
Was that always the dream, to expand out across the country?
‘Yes definitely, that’s on the greater horizon for us. But we want to have a pretty good grasp on our own community before we go and put a lot of energy and time in setting it up in other communities,’ said Jackson Connellan.
‘I don’t think we’re very far off doing that, but there’s still a few little things we want to tweak, and really make sure it’s working here before we try and implement it somewhere else,’ he said.