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 Just recently, Ian Venables and members of the Alberton West fire brigade used donated paint from their local Mitre 10 to paint a dead tree blue on a picnic reserve located near Yarram. It’s one of almost 700 trees painted to start a conversation about mental health around Australia and, indeed, overseas. They’ve been painted to give a very simple message to all Australians: it’s okay to not be okay.

The Blue Tree Project was born from tragedy but lives on in the cherished memory of Jayden Whyte, who tragically took his own life in 2018, in Western Australia. Jayden’s family and friends are determined to prevent others from experiencing the same anguish and heartbreak they did with his loss. The blue trees are often set quite incongruously in the landscape. They’re intended, though, to encourage difficult conversations—to start those difficult conversations, to encourage typically silent people to share their feelings and suffering and to seek help and to try and remove some of the stigma that is often associated, even today, with mental illness.

I want to congratulate the families and friends involved in the Blue Tree Project, and I want to also congratulate the Alberton West fire brigade for bringing the Blue Tree Project to Gippsland. I’m looking forward to working with other communities across my region to make sure we continue to have that conversation. I say again: It’s okay to not be okay. Help is available. Please don’t suffer in silence.

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