Jon Benham, Dementia Support Australia’s Regional Manager in the Top End, was one of eight Northern Territory locals to receive a Pride of Australia Medal in the lead up to Australia Day.
Benham made the 2017 list for his tireless community work raising awareness of Australia’s growing mental health challenge. This included involvement in the Black Dog Ride, in which hundreds of motor cyclists travel through Australian towns seeking to decrease the stigma of depression.
In 2016, his dedication to the Black Dog Ride in Darwin saw the participation increase by 60 per cent.
The national recognition has surprised the mental health nurse who feels “humbled to be considered and rewarded” for something he “just does.”
“I feel it needs to be done and in a way I enjoy doing it,” said Benham.
Benham’s work to support people’s quality of life is not exclusive to the Black Dog Rides.
In his role as a Regional Manager with the national Dementia Support Australia (DSA) and Australian Regional and Remote Community Services (ARRCS), he works with isolated towns and Indigenous communities through the Top End to support people living with dementia.
"Dementia is another issue in society where there is a lack of understanding and often stigma which is why I highly value working with people with dementia and helping to ensure they receive greater support and understanding."
Photo from the Daily Telegraph
Confronting mental health stigma
Benham’s Pride of Australia medal win was recently highlighted in national media reports from News Corp. It said that in his most recent ride - a 10 day journey from Alice Springs to Darwin - he raised a much needed $5000 for people in need of support. In a sobering comparison, 80 Australians committed suicide within that time frame highlighting the importance of the awareness Benham raises.
Having lost two close friends, and knowing many who live with depression, Benham finds stigma the greatest barrier to people reaching out for support. He is making it his mission to stop the statistic growing, by starting the conversation in regional towns across the NT.
“With eight people a day taking their own life and no one talking about it, this makes me very concerned.
“So we thought nothing starts a conversation more than when a large group of ‘motorcycle enthusiasts’ pull into town. Then nothing shocks people more than when we tell them the facts about depression,” said Benham.
Facts that include:
• 1 in 5 Australians will experience mental illness every year.
• Almost twice as many people die from suicide in Australia than in road related deaths.
• 80 per cent of all suicides in Australia are by men, but the number of women taking their own lives is climbing.
• Men in regional locations experience much higher rates of suicide than the national average.
HammondCare joins Australia in thanking Jon Benham for his contribution to the NT, and congratulates him on receiving the Pride of Australia Award.