Let's Talk Kokoda trek aims to help raise awareness of mental health and suicide prevention

When Simpson dairy farmer Julian Benson feels depressed, he said just talking to other people can make a big difference – and that’s one of the reasons he’s joining Let’s Talk’s Kokoda trek.

Julian, his son Adrian and 18 others will make the nine-day trip in November to raise awareness for mental health and suicide prevention.

The last place in the group was auctioned off on Sunday with the $4300 proceeds going to the Let’s Talk initiative. 

In training: Mark Powell and members of the Let's Talk Kokoda Trek, including Julian (left) and Adrian Benson (third from left) gather at the Warrnambool Hotel to auction off a spot in the trip. Picture: Rob Gunstone

In training: Mark Powell and members of the Let's Talk Kokoda Trek, including Julian (left) and Adrian Benson (third from left) gather at the Warrnambool Hotel to auction off a spot in the trip. Picture: Rob Gunstone

Former Warrnambool man Brett Everard made the successful bid. “It’s a great cause and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said.

For Julian, 68, it will give him the chance to return to Papua New Guinea where he spent nine-months working 47 years ago.

He said imagining the terrible conditions the soldiers endured on the Kokoda trail 75 years ago makes you grateful for what you have.

“We do go through tough times. I’ve been in dairying for 40-odd years now and you go through your ups and downs. Some of those times I’ve been through a bit of depression myself,” he said.

Former Warrnambool man Brett Everard, now of the Gold Coast, won a spot in the 20-person trek after making a successful bid of $4300 in Sunday's auction.

Former Warrnambool man Brett Everard, now of the Gold Coast, won a spot in the 20-person trek after making a successful bid of $4300 in Sunday's auction.

“In the game I’m in, we can be isolated, we can become an island on our own,” he said. “As the thing says, let’s talk. If you’re feeling down, talk to your neighbours.”

He said one in five people each year suffer depression, and almost half will be affected in their lifetime. “It should not be something we’re ashamed of,” he said.

Adrian said while he was under no illusions that hiking the trail would be hard, he was looking forward to bonding with his dad. “I think the goals of Let’s Talk around breaking that stigma and getting people to talk about it are really important,” he said.

Mental health nurse Mark Powell said the Let’s Talk initiative aimed to motivate the community to be actively involved in reducing suicide. Mr Powell said encouraging people to talk about their issues with each other is the way to do something about it.

He said the Kokoda trip represented what Let’s Talk was all about. “It’s a journey of physical and mental toughness and it’s a time where it’s just going to be us all together... get away from technology, get away from all the busyness we have in our lives to just be together.

“The key signs we know when people are struggling, sleep’s poor, they’re losing interest/pleasure in things, their mood’s down more days than not. We want people to seek help early, not let it get to the point of being depression because once you open up you unload and you get that load off your shoulders – that old saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. There is no problem too great that you can’t talk to someone about it.” If you or someone you know needs help, call Lifeline on 131 114.

Members of the Let's Talk Kokoda Trek at Sunday's auction. Picture: Rob Gunstone

Members of the Let's Talk Kokoda Trek at Sunday's auction. Picture: Rob Gunstone