FROM THE HEART: Kiel Goodman speaks of the importance of communication in mental health support.
FROM THE HEART: Kiel Goodman speaks of the importance of communication in mental health support. Alexia Austin

Afghanistan vet on mission to spread R U OK? message

WHEN Roma-born Kiel Goodman returned from his second tour in Afghanistan, things had changed.

After witnessing a number of events during his overseas stint with the military, Mr Goodman's health had begun to suffer.

"I was given a diagnosis of PTSD and depression, and from there I struggled a lot, in and out of hospitals that kind of thing,” Mr Goodman said.

"When I returned from my service I tried to get my life back together but that didn't turn out too well.

"Unfortunately I then developed a drug issue.

"It took me a long time to ask for help, the turning point for me was seeing how much it was affecting everyone around me.”

"R U OK? Day is important to me because I have had a lot of friends take their own lives and any way I can help prevent that, even for one person, would be perfect.”

Mr Goodman said when it came to mental illness, communication was one of the most powerful tools we possess.

"I think the main point to get across is it's okay to not be okay, there is a massive stigma around mental health and it's important to be able to talk about it,” he said.

"Days such as this help to break the stigma down and show it's not a bad thing to talk about how you're feeling.

"For a male, especially a country male, to be able to talk about your feelings is a big thing and I think it shouldn't be like that.”

Mr Goodman, who now works for the troop support service Mates4Mates, gave a moving speech about his personal experience in overcoming mental illness during the Big Rig's R U OK? family day out on Saturday.

The event was held ahead of R U OK? Day on September 14 and the start of mental health awareness week in early October.

R U OK? is a not-for-profit suicide awareness organisation that works to provide information and disperse the stigma surrounding mental health.

It has been estimated that 45% of the Australian population will experience a mental health condition during their lifetime, with one million Australians diagnosed with depression over the past year.

Suicide has been listed as the leading cause of death in Australians aged between 15-24, with men making up an average six out of every eight suicides.

R U OK? Day is reminding people to ask family, friends and colleagues the question, "R U OK?”, as a simple conversation can make a big difference to someone's life.

The Big Rig hosted a number of community groups, public speakers and information stands, as well as fun activities for families to enjoy.

Kids of all ages hopped to victory in a sack race, while others enjoyed the billycart competition.

The 4RR radio helped out on the day, broadcasting the event live to the Charleville community.

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