A GROUP giving tradies a helping hand has received a $2 million funding injection to deploy mental health support workers.
Jeremy Forbes started the Hope Assistance Local Tradies group in Castlemaine seven years ago to raise awareness about mental health after the suicide of a central Victorian tradesman.
HALT soon expanded its "Save Your Bacon" community breakfasts to Bendigo and further afield.
The latest funding will allow two Victorian public health care networks to roll out two new HALT suicide prevention community workers.
"HALT workers can get in there and link to vulnerable members of the community who don't always talk about their feelings and emotions - and are not aware of what support is out there," Mr Forbes said.
The workers' main activities will be to organise Save Your Bacon events and educational sessions, including at hardware stores, TAFEs, men's sheds, local councils, and secondary schools.
The new federal government funding will be invested through the North Western Melbourne and South Eastern Melbourne primary health care networks.
Mr Forbes said it was a "tipping point" in national aspirations for HALT. He hoped one day to have community workers embedded with primary healthcare networks across Australia, especially in regional Victoria, NSW, SA and WA.
National coverage was a dream Mr Forbes had fostered since the first HALT event.
"I knew it would be hard work because it (suicide and mental health) is a tough subject, but I was not sure how to get it done," Mr Forbes.
Now, with the backing of government and years of hard work, he felt like he knew how that dream could become a reality.
The new funding came after a six-month HALT worker trial was announced earlier this year in the North Western Primary Healthcare Network, which included areas in the vicinity of Melton and Brimbank.
That trial would continue over the coming months.
"The beauty of it is that the trial will set up community contacts so that a worker can step straight in and hit the ground running," Mr Forbes said.
Health minister Greg Hunt said suicide was a national tragedy.
"Close to 3000 Australians take their lives each year. One life lost is one too many," he said.
If you or someone you know is in need of support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au, or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or suicidecallbackservice.org.au.
In an emergency, call 000.
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