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October 4, 2022

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Jackson Connellan from The Healthy Minds Club at Lennox Head. Photo David Lowe.

The Lennox-based (and fast-expanding) young men’s mental health group are continuing to change lives and inspire the wider community with activities across the region.

Vice-president of The Healthy Minds Club, Jackson Connellan, told The Echo that COVID put a forced hold on some community events, but they’ve been back into it since February.

‘Yes, we collaborated with the Lennox Longboarders and held a community longboard, social surf event down in front of the pub,’ he said. ‘Following that we had a community Mental Health First Aid initiative. Then we had the floods.’

He said members of the club got busy helping people across flood-affected communities, especially in the Ballina area. ‘That was a time to look at the community, and see where we could apply different skills and help where it was needed.

‘Then about four weeks after the floods, we held a community get-together, a resilience event, just to make sure that everybody was coping all right, and knew what resources were out there. We also wanted to bring the Lennox community together.’

Dr Justin Coulson. Photo supplied.

How is the community travelling?

Jackson Connellan says there’s been ‘a bit of a mental health wave’ coming through youth across the region, with two suicides of very young people locally over the last twelve months.

He said that prompted a few individuals and organisations in the area to ‘reach out to each other to say, “hey, look, there’s a big problem here. It needs addressing, how do we address it?”

‘So the next stage consisted of the Boaty Boys, which are a fitness and health wellness group down in Lennox Head, and then some other individuals also came down. We named the project Community Connection,’ said Mr Connellan.

‘And what we did is offer four different events that were about helping parents understand how to support their children better, how to help parents understand their kids and their identity, also how to help them find their identity.

‘We had a guest speaker, Dr Justin Coulson, come in and speak about building youth resilience. Maggie Dent, another well known parenting expert and author, came in and did a presentation on “how to tame the stress monster” in adolescence.’

Change the narrative

Mr Connellan says another recent Healthy Minds Club event was about ‘changing the narrative’.

Kris Cook with the Healthy Minds Club at Lennox. Photo supplied.

‘We had an Indigenous ceremony down on Lennox Main Beach in front of the surf club. [Nyangbul man] Kris Cook came and performed a smoke ceremony and talked about the local heritage and the dream time stories for the Bundjalung area.

‘And then we had a sound healing and breath workshop following that.’

Next up for The Healthy Minds Club is their involvement in the free Mental Health Symposium in Ballina this week, coming up on Thursday night at Ballina RSL, where they’ll be part of the Breakout Room.

As well as sharing their own knowledge and resources with the audience, Jackson Connellan said, ‘That will be a good chance for us to collaborate and create some new connections within the mental health community. We’ve never been involved in a seminar quite like this.’

How to stay motivated

Mr Connellan said the final Community Connection event was coming up in Lennox Head on 5 September. ‘Yes, we’ve got an incredible presentation from Barney and Kada Miller. Barney has a story of hardship. He’s gone through a bunch of health issues and scares, he was in a life threatening car accident.

Barney and Kada Miller. Photo supplied.

‘His story’s really about how to keep fighting, how to stay motivated, how to stay positive – when you’ve got your back against the wall.

‘So that will be another another great free community presentation down at the Lennox Head Cultural Center.’

Tickets and more information available here.

Beyond Lennox, The Healthy Minds Club is expanding mental health first aid training to Byron Shire. ‘We’re hoping to engage some participants and get some new people on board,’ said Mr Connellan. ‘That’s the 17th and 18th of September at Mullumbimby RSL.’

Tickets for the free Mullum event are also via the Eventbrite ticket website.

He says the big plan is to spread mental health first aid training and support throughout the whole Northern Rivers area, with a recent event in Goonellabah likely to be followed soon by mental health seminars in Broadwater and Wardell, if the right venues can be found.

A great bunch of blokes

Jackson Connellan says his work for The Healthy Minds Club is still ‘all voluntary stuff’, but he’s also full of praise for the eight member board. ‘Everyone really chips in and pulls their weight,’ he said.

The Healthy Minds Club are changing the narrative and starting new conversations about mental health. Photo supplied.

‘Our president Lachlan Jones, he does a terrific job organising a lot of our events, alongside myself. And then the other lads do a great job of coming down and helping those events run smoothly.

‘I’m really stoked that we’ve got a fully motivated bunch of blokes that are running the board with this,’ said Mr Connellan.

‘It’s quite light work when you’ve got many hands! We’re just hoping to continue to stretch our reach and build the profile of mental health within the Northern Rivers.’

With The Healthy Minds Club continuing to inspire people all over the place, things are on the up and up for this vital community organisation.

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