AARON Carlin wanted a reason to get rid of his dreadlocks.
He found two very good ones.
In January, Mr Carlin’s close mate, Patrick Kenna, 23, was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
So after almost four years the dreadlocks were to go, in a very public way.
A fortnight ago, Mr Carlin’s long locks were shaved off in front of a full house at the Middle Hotel in Terang.
It turned out to be a significant event with $10,600 already raised and more contributions still coming in.
Half the money will go towards Mr Kenna to help in his battle with testicular cancer, while the other half will go to mental health support initiative Lets Talk.
“The support I have got for the shave has been unreal,” Mr Carlin said.
“Paddy’s a good mate and I just wanted to do something to help out.
“I’d been looking for a reason to get rid of the dreadlocks for a while and this was perfect.
“People have been really generous, they are still giving now.
“We decided to give the other half of the money to Let’s Talk. We all know people who are struggling a bit with mental health and it’s pretty important to show them as much support as we can.”
For Mr Kenna, the shock of having to deal with cancer at such a young age has been softened a little thanks to the overwhelming support from the Terang community where he grew up.
He has just finished a nine-week course of chemotherapy and has been given a cancer-free report.
This news and the efforts of Mr Carlin and the whole community has left Mr Kenna humbled.
“The support I have had is overwhelming,” Mr Kenna said.
“People have been unreal. Everyone has done what they can to help in any way. It certainly helps in tough times.”
It is this support that inspired Mr Kenna to do what he could to help others in need.
He chose Let’s Talk because of his close friendship with Sam Fitzgibbon, who died last year.
Sam’s father, Mick Fitzgibbon, has played a key role in driving Lets Talk in the south-west.
“Sam was one of my best mates so it’s something that is close to my heart,” Mr Kenna said.
“The big thing is we need to treat mental illness the way we treat physical illness, even if it’s not as obvious.
“The support that has come for the head shave shows people now know that a mental illness is just as real as a physical one and we all need to help out.”
The Let’s Talk initiative is having a positive impact in the Terang and Mortlake district communities.
Until recently, Damian Coolahan, 32, has been fighting his mental health issues alone.
“I got diagnosed with depression 12 months ago but I reckon I have had it for the last 10 years,” Mr Coolahan said.
“After I got diagnosed, I thought I had beaten it but about four months ago I had a relapse. I knew I had to do something about it and that’s when I tapped into Let’s Talk and used that as a stepping stone to letting people know I had depression.
“I told my family and friends and a couple of months ago I put a post on Facebook putting it all out there and the support I got from that was incredible.
“Telling everyone has made it so much easier. It is a real weight off my shoulders.”
While he is now able to see the positive effects of talking about his depression, taking the step to sharing this information with the world was not an easy one.
“I was the typical male I suppose,” Mr Coolahan said.
“I thought my mates would feel differently about me if they found out.
“But as it has turned out, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“People just want to help but unless they know what you are going through they can’t. I still have my bad days but now I can talk to someone about it. Before, I would bottle things up and overthink it and that wasn’t healthy.
“I just want to do what I can to help other people and hopefully sharing my story can do that.”
Mortlake’s Tyler McColl has been grappling with depression for the past four years.
In February this year, Mr McColl decided enough was enough and sought help to stop what was fast becoming a destructive lifestyle.
“I had two car crashes in a six-month period, both through drink-driving,” Mr McColl said. “I was spending $300 or $400 a week on grog as a way of dealing with my depression.
“I knew I needed help but it was still hard coming out and telling everyone I had depression.
“People have been so accepting, the guys at the Mortlake Cricket Club where I play have been unreal.
“I’ve improved a hell of a lot. I still have my ups and downs but it’s nice to have people looking out for me.
“I have people I can talk to and I don’t always have to initiate that, I get calls from people just to check if I’m going all right, which is great.”
For Mr Fitzgibbon, getting young people in the community to seek help to deal with their mental health issues is a huge step forward.
He said talking openly created important support.
“When you suffer from anxiety or depression and you hide, you create the stigma,” Mr Fizgibbon said.
“But by stepping out, you create a situation where people feel cared for.
“We want people with anxiety and depression to reach out early and get help.
“Please everyone, please be proud to step out and help the next sufferers.”
- For help, call Lifeline on 131 114.