Steering ‘black dog’ to forefront
Have you ever seen a cow at the Brig Amity?
The answer is probably no, which is why the two cows visiting locations around Albany this week are sure to spark conversations.
But the conversations the cows’ owners want to spark are more serious than simply animals in strange places.
They want to get people talking about depression, the “black dog”.
A Red Angus steer called Winston and a Charolais heifer called Clementine have visited three locals schools and other Albany hotspots to start the conversation about suicide prevention and mental health awareness.
Mount Barker Community College, Clontarf Foundation, North Albany Senior High School, and Bethel Christian School received a visit from the friendly duo this week.
Psychotherapist, mental health first aider and co-organiser of the Denmark Black Dog Ride Bev Seeney accompanied the cows, talking to the students about one of the most pressing health issues for young people in regional WA.
After Kildarra Red Angus stud owners Trevlyn and Graeme Smith complete their journey, they will donate Winston to be auctioned off at the Perth Royal Show with all funds going towards the Back Dog Ride.
The idea stemmed from Dardanup cattle breeder Peter Milton.
In 2011, he had the opportunity to raise awareness of the regional mental health crisis and did so by offering a steer to be auctioned at the Perth Royal Show, donating to the same cause.
Mrs Smith said that as parents, they wanted their three children to know they could talk to them about anything, while also understanding them they could help someone else just by listening and supporting them.
“A steer is not something you would you usually see at a school, so that in itself starts people talking,” she said.
“From the school visits we just want the students to understand it is OK to talk.
“People need to know it is OK not to be OK and starting the conversation is so important.
“As we have worked with cattle for many years, we know that when patting or brushing cattle you instantly feel at ease and people begin to talk. Cattle give a calming effect to help start the conversation.”
Their son Sean, who is 11, helped to select and prep the steer for the show.
His mother said they spoke to Mr Milton about donating a steer, and they thought it would be a good opportunity for Sean to learn first-hand.
“Sean has a great understanding of the role that Winston is playing in promoting mental health awareness and the prevention of suicide, giving people the opportunity to talk,” she said.
“We know that bullying and dealing with the effects of bullying can be really hard for some people. We feel that it is important not to allow the bullies to take control and to teach our children ways to overcome and stand up for themselves and their mates.”
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