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2018 Sylvia Gray Psychology undergraduate at Deakin University, Sylvia Gray, (pictured left with Chairman June Driscoll)  is inspired by the words of Neil De Grasse Tyson, who said: “I am driven by two main philosophies: Know more about the world than I knew yesterday, and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.”Sylvia’s current dedication to helping others rise from the hardships she experienced in childhood.

From adolescence to adulthood Sylvia has battled continuously with nay sayers and adversity. A few years ago she became deeply inspired by Dr. Philip Zimbardo’s work, especially the Heroic Imagination Project, and decided to return to university. She realised that prevention is more valuable than a cure. Her own experiences as well as her work on a national crisis support hotline has led her to believe that empowering effective action is crucial to reduce issues of discrimination and stigmatisation.

On Wednesday 21st February 2018 Sylvia, herself a Rotarian with the Rotary Club of Bayside Geelong, shared her story with us, a story about the establishment of Hero Town and her passion for empowering individuals to create positive change in their lives, the lives of others, our community and the world.

The Corangamite Shire conducted a survey of youth which focused on their concerns in life with the outcome being school, bullying and mental health. The question was asked – Where would you go to seek support for mental health issues and the following statistics were the outcome:58% of participants would not go to the internet 71% of participants would not seek help from community service organisations 84% would not seek support from online counselling. An overwhelming 80% indicated they would were more likely to turn to family and friends for help.

Hero Town saw these statistics as an opportunity to introduce Mental Health First Aid training to the public to provide early interventions until professional help is available. Hero Town offers Mental Health First Aid to youth, suicidal persons and in the workplace.The Youth Mental Health First Aid programs teaches adults how to assist adolescents who are developing a mental health problem or in a mental health crisis and covers:

 adolescent development,

 the signs and symptoms of the common and disabling mental health problems in youngpeople, including:

 depression,

 anxiety,

 psychosis,

 eating disorders,

 substance misuse,

 suicidal ideation,

 non-suicidal self-harm,

 trauma,

 aggressive behaviours, and

 psychotic episodes.

Also included are: where and how to get help when a young person is developing a mental illness; what sort of help has been shown by research to be effective, and how to provide mental health first aid in a crisis.

Courses are offered in Geelong with support provided by volunteers and local Rotary clubs.