BEING AWARE: Laura Watts is a Black Dog Institute speaker. Gemima Harvey
BEING AWARE: Laura Watts is a Black Dog Institute speaker. Gemima Harvey

Shedding light on mental health

A FORMER Coffs Coast local, Laura Watts, has returned to raise mental health awareness in the region.

Laura volunteers with the Black Dog Institute, an organisation involved with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder, sharing her experience living with depression in the hope of raising awareness.

She teamed up with the institute's project manager of community and youth education, Shannon Nolan, to deliver a one-day session this week. During the session, seven locals were trained to deliver mental health presentations to schools and community groups.

Ms Watts, a former student of Tyalla Primary and Orara High School, said one in five Australians are affected by mental illness every year, with one of the most common of these being depression.

"It touches people of all ages and from all walks of life, and places an enormous burden on individuals, families, workplaces and the health system. Less than 50% of people will seek professional help."

Laura, who now lives in Sydney, said she suffered in silence for far too long before seeking help.

"The symptoms of my depression first started late 2009 and I suffered in silence for 12 months. I had a supportive network of friends and family, and I knew all about mental health issues but I was in denial," she said.

"When I look back I was surprised I waited for so long. It was an incredibly dark period of my life."

Laura eventually sort help after a friend reached out and she started a journey of recovery.

Now she is helping Black Dog Institute with their 'train the trainer' program, visiting regional areas to recruit and train new volunteer presenters.

To book a Black Dog Institute presentation at your school or community group, go to www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/public/education.



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