Grassroots campaigner wins top honour

Grassroots campaigner wins top honour

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Bean Thru Café owner Stephen Lawson with Art Versus Depression owner Gavin Grace, who was awarded Armadale’s Community Citizen of the Year award. Photograph – Aaron Van Rongen.

An Armadale man who started his own support group to help residents fight depression has been recognised as Community Citizen of the Year.

Gavin Grace picked up the City of Armadale’s annual Australia Day award for developing his business, Art Versus Depression, which worked with local businesses and Grovelands Primary School in 2017 to create safe spaces for people living with depression.

Art Versus Depression’s Resilient Friends Club launched last year, and promotes creating spaces in which people can open up about their problems.

Mr Grace said while he supported mainstream anti-depression campaigns like RUOK Day, he thought there were other ways to get people talking.

“I found as a man when somebody asks if you’re okay, I’ll give an automatic response – ‘yeah, sweet as bro’,” he said.

“Often people will say they’re all alright but are falling apart inside.

“We want to remove that.

“We’re not going to ask if you’re okay, we’ll provide the space for you so when you’re ready to come or when you’re needing help, it’s already there.”

Mr Grace has formed partnerships with three local businesses and Grovelands Primary School to develop a community buddy program.

His plan is ambitious: turning Armadale into the first “buddy friendly” city in the world.

To do that he wanted to sign up more businesses, schools and community groups from across the region this year.

He said getting more businesses and clubs to carry the AVD teddy bear mascot could create a collective fight against depression across the region.
“People will know we are an aware city,” he said.

“A buddy friendly space means it’s an environment that is aware wellbeing is important.”

He said work at Grovelands Primary School, which began in 2017 with a small group of students, would extend to more than 300 children aged six to 11-years-old in 2018.

Mr Grace was one of 23 residents nominated for the Community Citizen of the Year award and said he was humbled by the recognition.

“This is a civilian response to the epidemic that is depression,” he said.

“It’s grassroots, it’s not driven by government.

“We’re just doing what we can.”

If you or anyone you know needs help you can contact:

Lifeline on 13 11 14

Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800

Mensline Australia on 1300 789 978

Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36

Headspace on 1800 650 890