Leanne here to lend an ear

Lifeline Gippsland volunteer Leanne Potter plans to speak to the community about mental health.photograph michelle slater

Lifeline Gippsland volunteer Leanne Potter plans to speak to the community about mental health.photograph michelle slater

A community shaker and mover is waving the flag for Lifeline Gippsland as one of the faces in a campaign to help people recognise the signs of mental illness.

Budgeree woman Leanne Potter is helping to build Friends of Lifeline Gippsland which will feature community members getting out and having informal chats about mental health.

"We are talking about Lifeline and about mental health with the community in places like sporting clubs or community events," Ms Potter said.

"We need to get these conversations going to skill up the community to look for signs when someone is not okay."

The passionate community advocate became a Lifeline volunteer phone counsellor two-and-a-half years ago after completing a counselling course to help in her work with people with autism.

"I realised the extent of mental illness and the attitudes of society. I wanted to start a conversation about getting help," she said.

"It's highly rewarding and it's the best training I've ever had. You work with the whole team and you are fully supported."

Ms Potter is also a shift supervisor providing crisis support for other counsellors.

"When I began I had a fear every time I picked up the phone about what sort of call I would get but this is where our training and support network comes in," she said.

"You can get so much information from someone's voice, you can hear a level of distress and respond accordingly. Sometimes you just need to listen without an opinion and that is enough."

Ms Potter said Gippsland was an important place to have these conversations as there were demographic profiles of people who were most likely to suffer mental illness.

She said these groups included males between 18 and 45, agricultural workers, fly-in-fly-out workers and Indigenous groups.

"We know these groups don't traditionally seek help, but we want to get to their communities and families so they have the skills to ask if you are okay."

Ms Potter is also helping the Morwell branch celebrate its 50th anniversary in August by helping to organise celebrations and events across Gippsland's Lifeline shops.

She is also championing Lifeline in her quest to become Mrs Australia, with charity work a major factor in determining the national title in the November pageant.

She hopes her Mrs Australia Continent pageant profile will raise awareness about rural mental health.

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