Big turnout and 'fabulous' response to Will to Live tour

Otago Polytechnic carpentry programme manager Graham Dunbar (left) with senior lecturer Kevin Dunbar in front of their 2018 auction house. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Elle Perriam (right) encourages Jess to "speak up'' during the Will to Live tour in Winton last week. Several local farm dogs also contributed to the meeting. Photo: Supplied
The importance of ''speaking up'' when feeling depressed or down, is emphasised at each of Elle Perriam's Will to Live Speak Up meetings, two of which were held in Winton and Balclutha last week.

Ms Perriam's boyfriend Will Gregory took his own life in 2017.

She, her sisters Kate and Sarah and others, raised money to undertake a tour of nearly 20 small rural venues throughout New Zealand to promote the importance of ''speaking up'' about mental health issues.

Will's dog Jess is the tour's mascot.

Otago Rural Support Trust co-ordinator Pat Mcaulay attended the Balclutha meeting at the Balclutha Town and Country Club on July 31 and said she was ''blown away'' by the number of people there and the messages.

A moment of silence was held at each meeting for those who lost their lives by suicide, and then local dogs brought in by farm workers, and Jess, ''speak''.

Several speakers from each area also talked about their experiences.

Mrs Macaulay said there was a mix of ages, from very young farm workers to more mature ones.

''There were 15 to 20 dogs on stage taking part in the bark up and only one disgraced himself, but it was tidied up quickly.''

One of the key messages of the meeting was it was OK to ask for help and to offer help or a listening ear.

Southland Rural Support Trust chairwoman Cathie Cotter said about 150 people attended the Winton event on August 1.

''It was an amazing event, absolutely fabulous and incredibly well organised,'' she said.

''Two young guys in their mid-20s had amazing stories to tell about their depression.

''You could have heard a pin drop.

''One guy had to carry his dog in as it was not normally allowed inside, and another was covered in mud as he had come off the ute as he had just been working.

''It was just wonderful, just great to see so many rural folk and so many blokes there,'' she said.

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865.

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