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Riverina Bluebell is a not for profit, volunteer, community organisation, committed to raising awareness about mental health issues in the Riverina and encouraging people to get help and support.

Our goal is to encourage locals to share stories, build awareness of the avenues for support available in our local area and knowledge that asking for help is OK.

To do so, we offer community groups the opportunity to hear from local residents, who backed by training support from Black Dog Institute, can share their experiences of living with a mood disorder or caring for someone with a mood disorder.

Riverina Bluebell can work with you to identify the right presentation for your school or community group.

Our speakers include:


Email Steve: cookingwithchez@bigpond.com

SteveMatthewsStephen Matthews is a 59 year old farmer born and bred in Lockhart who was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in 2004.

His diagnosis followed a major breakdown that he believes was brought about by long working hours on the farm compounded by the heavy financial pressure due to the millennium drought.

As a result of his breakdown, Stephen spent three months in a mental health facility in Albury before starting a long slow recovery, punctuated by a severe intolerance to some of the medications designed to help him.

Today, Stephen lives with cyclic depression and periodically receives maintenance treatment. He is committed to sharing his story to help those in similar situations. His background in farming, owner director of a medium sized transport company and as a small business owner places him in good stead to reach out to a wide variety of audiences across our community.

Stephen says he aims to share his personal experience into many aspects of mental health, including:

  • The downward spiral
  • The crash
  • Local treatments options – both institutional and otherwise
  • Ongoing Mental health management
  • Long and short term effects
  • Family and friends support



Email Chris:  cwillow67@gmail.com

ChrisWilsonChris Wilson is a busy sheep and grain farmer at Wantabadgery, who after ignoring and hiding many signs and symptoms of depression for 15 years, was confronted by his sister and sought professional help.

After living with the illness that was at times debilitating and forced him to spend days inside his home and unable to work his farm for so long, Chris is now committed to sharing his story in the hope others won’t wait as long as he did.

Chris’s ability to describe his descent into depression, how he tried to hide his struggle from those closest to him, and what would help him through dark times that included suicidal thoughts is a powerful tool to start conversations and raise awareness.

Chris sought professional help from a local psychologist at a time when he had no idea what else to do. Ensuring people are aware of the help available to them when they need it is a key part of Chris’s motivation to share his story.

Chris has delivered many presentations to community and school groups across the Riverina in order to start the conversation about mental health and remove any feeling of shame or stigma from it.




John-HarperEmail John:  harper2725@bigpond.com

John Harper is a dryland wheat/sheep farmer from Stockinbingal NSW. Married with three daughters John’s simple goal in life was to be a better than average farmer and hand over the family farm in good condition to his children. Depression nearly destroyed John’s opportunity to fulfill this simple goal.

Having no formal qualifications in mental health John speaks from personal experience. John experienced depression and spent some time reflecting on the impact and the remedies of poor mental well-being. He is convinced that simple philosophies and strategies, combined with an awareness of the importance of mental well-being, can prevent individuals sliding into depression.

Originally John became proactive because he wanted to help a mate avoid sliding into depression. In helping him John became aware that other mates were in a similar position. Indeed many individuals in rural communities are in danger of falling into depression. The climatic and financial situations are providing the conditions that promote poor mental well-being and depression. A real danger in preventing depression is the stigma, the fear we have in talking and discussing mental health. John’s strategies are all aimed at overcoming this stigma.

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Email Samatha: samantha.brunskill@brunsleapark.com.au

Young, successful and attractive, Samantha Brunskill appears to lead a storybook life.

But beneath her bubbly exterior lies a mind at war with itself. Sam is living with Bi-polar, a condition that sees her mood oscillate between euphoric highs and paralysing lows.

Five years ago after finishing year 12 at boarding school in Sydney, she was diagnosed with bi-polar after a period of intense stress. In the ensuing years, she has been forced to confront both the life-altering condition and the prejudice that accompanies it.

HeadshotWhen first diagnosed, she googled ‘people with bi-polar’ and no public figures were openly speaking about it. “There is definitely a fear of the unknown within the community and some people get tears in their eyes when told about it, as if it’s some sort of curse.” Even some close to her advised her not to speak about her illness publically.

Undaunted, Sam has vowed to be the national face of bi-polar awareness, recently named as ambassador for the Ian Parker Bipolar Fund, an organisation aimed at raising funds and awareness of the condition. As the general manager of Wagga’s Brunslea Park, Sam has already helped raise over $80,000 for the fund, with $1000 from each block sold at Brunslea donated.

The condition manifests itself in a number of ways. Some days, “I just want to jump out of bed and embrace the world. I have lots of energy, lots of ideas. I can be prone to taking a lot of risks when I am manic. But the higher the highs, the more inevitable the crash.

I can go for weeks on end where I don’t want to speak to people, I want to isolate myself. It’s sometimes hard to get out of bed; I have no motivation to do anything. You disconnect from yourself and the world. It’s like your mind turns on itself. It’s can be difficult when your role at work requires often my bubbly persona and there feels an expectation for me to always be that way.

I have learned to manage the condition through exercise, meditation and medication, offering a message of support for others with bi-polar. Although the highs and lows are very frightening and sometimes destructive, society needs to understand that sometimes people are fighting a battle underneath their persona. People with bi-polar can embrace the illness and channel the symptoms in a positive way. Although it can be exhausting to always be aware of your mood and adjust to it, but you can absolutely manage it. I believe your mental illness can be your greatest gift, when you embrace it.”

Resilient, raw and creative, Sam is ever eager to give back and help her community be the best it can be. She has taken on various charitable projects and voluntary roles, including patron of the Rotary Shine Awards. A fledging writer, keen supporter of the Ignite Mentor program and the founder and coordinator of Embrace Support Group in Wagga, Sam continues to create social change at every opportunity.