Mental health awareness was in the spotlight last week with R U OK? Day and World Suicide Prevention Day both marked on Thursday, September 10 this year.

R U OK? Day might only happen once a year, but it is a reminder that every day is a good day to start a conversation that could change a person’s life.

The public awareness campaign encourages people to talk about mental health in a bid to reduce the number of suicides in Australia.

This year has produced many challenges including COVID-19 restrictions, which have limited people’s connection to one another.

And so, in 2020, the campaign urged people to reach out and learn more about what they can do to help a friend or loved one who is struggling with their emotional or mental health.

This year’s theme was ‘There’s more to say after R U OK?’.

Founder Gavin Larkin always said the day was a chance to “think about someone other than yourself” by asking the seemingly simple question, are you okay?

Popular and respected Wee Waarian Clifford Toomey has been raising awareness about mental health at a local level by taking part in a push-up challenge.

“In May 2020, a very good mate of mine nominated me to do a push-up challenge for post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide prevention in men,” said Mr Toomey.

“The challenge consisted of 25 push-ups for 25 days and every day I had to post a video on Facebook and nominate a new person to take the challenge on.”

Mr Toomey said he has been dealing with his own health issues in the last 12 months, but is now back on track.

“I was starting to spiral out of control and heading into a deep dark hole called depression and anxiety.”

Mr Toomey said a number of life-changing events sparked his battle with mental health issues.

“I had no idea how to get myself back up and claw my way out of this deep dark hole,” he said.

“I decided to turn to the church, but I struggled with this as I am a proud Gomeroi man and this was all I knew and believed – it’s what makes me ‘me’.”

Mr Toomey said exercising and taking part in the push-up challenge helped him reach a better and healthier mindset.

“I completed the push-up challenge and thought to myself – ‘I want to keep doing this’.

“It was helping me physically, mentally and emotionally so every day I added one push-up.

“My original goal was to get to my age of 45 and then I thought ‘I wonder if I can get to 50 push-ups?’

“And then I got to the year I was born ’75.”

Mr Toomey said he has been overwhelmed by the positive feedback and support on social media.

“An old school mate, Tim Wedesweiler, who I haven’t seen or heard from in 30 plus years messaged me and said he had seen and heard what I was doing and wanted to touch base and let me know that he wanted to do day 70 of my push-up challenge with me.

“The only thing was – ‘how do we do this because Tim lives and has lived in Canada for the past 25 years?’

“So we set-up to do the challenge via Zoom and then posted it on Facebook.

“I think that video alone had 14000 views.

“So I kept going every day until I made it to 100.

“I was feeling awesome because never in a million years would I have ever thought I would do 100 push-ups in one continuous go.

“I had two days off after completing my 100 push-ups and my heart, mind, body and soul started to feel ‘yuck’.

“So Monday morning on August 31, I started my new push-up challenge called ‘Deadly challenge for PTSD for men and women’.

“It’s 30 push-ups for 30 Days and I nominate a man and a woman to take up the challenge and help spread the word about this ugly disease.”

Mr Toomey said he is also incredibly grateful and appreciative of the support he has receieved from his family and closest friends.

“Thank you to Seaun Stanley for the push-up challenge nomination. It was exactly what I needed at that time.

“Also to my closest friends who I call my brothers and my three kids and three grandkids – you are and always will be my rocks. You are the reason I get out of bed every morning.”

Mr Toomey said he is sharing his story so people know that when you “hit rock bottom there is hope”.

If you or someone you know needs help contact:

Lifeline: 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 or beyondblue.org.au

Beyond Blue’s coronavirus support service: 1800 512 348 or coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au

Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 or kidshelpline.com.au

Headspace: 1800 650 890 or headspace.org.au

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