ONCE upon a time, mental health issues were shoved to the back of the room, cast aside as being too taboo to talk about.
In 2021, that is no longer the case and residents of all ages are actively encouraged to not only be aware of their own mental health, but also that of those around them.
With this in mind, the team at QPL Rural in Leeton, as well as the organisation's other locations in the area, are wearing shirts that are loud, bright and definitely pose the question "why are you wearing that?" - and the answer is simple.
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Staff members are wearing these unique shirts to encourage awareness of mental health as part of the R U OK initiative.
The idea is that staff will wear these shirts on the first Friday of each month in the lead up to R U OK? Day, which will officially be held on Thursday, September 9.
QPL Rural principal Craig Pellow said being able to wear these shirts was a simple way to start a conversation about mental health.
"It's about raising awareness and just having those conversations," he said.
"They've been really well received.
"We'll also be doing some fundraising to contribute to the R U OK? Day cause as well.
"It's a really good cause ... something that affects everyone."
R U OK? is a harm prevention charity that encourages people to stay connected and have conversations that can help others through difficult times in their lives.
The organisation's work focuses on building the motivation, confidence and skills of the help-giver - the person who can have a meaningful conversation with someone who is struggling with life.
R U OK? contributes to suicide prevention efforts by encouraging people to invest more time in their personal relationships and building the capacity of informal support networks - friends, family and colleagues - to be alert to those around them, have a conversation if they identify signs of distress or difficulty and connect someone to appropriate support, long before they're in crisis.
QPL Rural will be holding will be holding a street stall in Leeton on September 9 on the national RU OK? Day, with residents encouraged to check it out on the day and donate where possible.
"I think it's a great initiative we can easily be part of ... raising awareness of asking that simple question is really important," Mr Pellow said.
Schools throughout Leeton shire will also be participating in R U OK? Day holding various events themselves.
Other businesses in the shire have been encouraged to jump on board the initiative in any way possible to ensure mental health continues to be spoken about, letting people know it's okay to ask for help.
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