Veteran backs mental aid

Adam PoulsenGeraldton Guardian
Afghanistan veteran turned mental health worker Royce Hardman chats with WO2 Ross Peck, Sgt Jason Hoare and Cpl Gus Ruiz.
Camera IconAfghanistan veteran turned mental health worker Royce Hardman chats with WO2 Ross Peck, Sgt Jason Hoare and Cpl Gus Ruiz. Credit: Adam Poulsen

After serving in Afghanistan in his early 20s, Royce Hardman became one of countless war veterans left struggling with mental health problems.

Now the 29-year-old works for not-for-profit organisation Avivo, where he tries to raise mental health awareness in the Geraldton community.

In an attempt to lessen the stigma associated with mental health issues, Avivo will host its second annual Amazing Race at the Geraldton foreshore in October.

The event encourages people with mental illnesses to get involved and interact with the wider community.

Fifteen interactive stations will be set up, which teams of two to four people will then have to find by solving riddles.

The first team to find each station and complete all 15 activities will win a $2000 gift voucher from Geraldton bicycle shop Revolutions.

Mr Hardman said the event was particularly aimed at local youth.

“Mental health is starting to come into the light now,” he said.

“It’s being spoken about a lot more freely. We’re targeting the youth because they’re at a vulnerable age where we can make a difference.”

One of the stations will be manned by local troops from the Australian Army Reserve’s Pilbara Regiment.

Mr Hardman said the regiment’s involvement would increase community engagement with the army and remind people of the heavy price some soldiers had to pay.

“I fought in Afghanistan and that sent me on a downward spiral,” Mr Hardman said.

“There’s obviously a lot of mental health issues in the army, and we got them involved to support the community.

“It’s a good opportunity for everyone to see what these guys do, and it will be a really fun station for the kids because they can play soldier.”

Warrant Officer Class Two Ross Peck, of the Pilbara Regiment, said he was happy to be involved.

“We do have a lot of mental health issues within the military,” he said.

“It is a problem that has slowly taken over Defence members.

“By helping out with The Amazing Race, it should bring a bit more exposure to the general public about how it does affect not just soldiers, but also civilians.”

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