Rural Health Tasmania tackles mental health head on

Community stories: 26 February 2021

Where’s Your Head @?  is a one day event – a music festival with benefits – aimed at youth in the Circular Head area of Tasmania. It was brought to life by a number of groups invested in the wellbeing and future of the community. The festival’s core message is to encourage people to engage in conversations they would usually avoid, in the hope that the stigma associated with talking about mental health will fade, and community members will always be able to find a shoulder or two to lean on.

Building on the momentum of the festival’s debut in 2018, which attracted more than 700 participants and raised $1,500 over just one day to bring free Mental Health First Aid training to the community, Rural Health Tasmania sought to deliver a second event in their community to entertain and connect people to services they can turn to in times of crisis. A $6,412 grant from the Strengthening Rural Communities program supported the running of the event for it’s second year.

While the community in this part of Tasmania may be feeling down on their luck, having seen disadvantage, industrial crisis, natural disasters and personal tragedy in recent years, there is clearly a strong willingness to build a better future and emerge from tough times.

Much of this project is youth initiated, planned and delivered, to ensure connection and engagement with vulnerable youth in the area. It has broad community buy-in, with a long list of collaborators, including 7UP Youth Centre, Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation, Circular Head Council, Circular Head Christian School, and Smithton High School to name a few.

The event, while relocated last minute from an outdoor venue to the Smithton Recreation Centre due to unfortunate weather, also featured satellite concerts and talks at two high schools and an aged care facility.

It was predominantly attended by youth, which had an effect on fundraising, but still $615 was raised at the door to add to the pool of first aid training money from the previous year. The event’s importance was cemented in the organisers’ minds: they made the deliberate decision to promote the event as alcohol-free and ‘dare’ attendees to come out and socialise without relying on drugs or alcohol. They deemed this to have had a detrimental effect on adult attendance (the previous years’ event also excluded alcohol, however the fact was left unmentioned in its promotion.)

Many service providers reported that they made important referrals as a result of the Pitstop health checks, and the class from Smithton High School who took part in a great deal of the organisational work got to benefit from this involvement, and that’s another valuable outcome from the events two years running, and there’s a good chance that the some of the stigma of talking about how you feel will be lifted for attendees in and out of the school yard.

We hope that the wonderful organisations who have came together to create this event continue to believe in their important work, as they have much to be proud of.