CONVERSATION NEEDED: Simon Neal, business systems officer for the council, has suffered depression on and off since his early teens.
CONVERSATION NEEDED: Simon Neal, business systems officer for the council, has suffered depression on and off since his early teens. Madeline Grace

Let's talk about suicide in the South Burnett

SIMON Neal knows too well the struggles of facing mental health battles on a day-to-day basis.

The South Burnett Regional Council business systems officer, now 47, has suffered depression on and off since his early teens.

Following the recent and tragic suicides of young South Burnett residents, Mr Neal wants to use his own experiences to start the much-needed conversation around mental illness.

With the help of Tarong Power Station, Stanwell, Meandu Mine, Nichols Printing, Kingaroy Cinema, South Burnett Arts, and the South Burnett Times, Mr Neal is doing just that with a film screening in Kingaroy.

The documentary, Mystify Michael Hutchence, will screen at the Kingaroy cinema on Monday, August 19, from 7pm.

Tickets are $15 from the South Burnett Times office on Haly St. For each ticket sold, $10 will go to the South Burnett Suicide Prevention Group.

"The documentary focuses on Michael Hutchence, who committed suicide," Mr Neal said.

"When he passed in 1997 there was a lot of incorrect information about his death, particularly in the tabloid media. They really did sensationalise it."

Mr Neal said in light of events of the past couple of weeks, the issue was especially important

"First with the young fella over in Wondai and then the young lady in Cherbourg - it's a tragedy and it needs to be spoken about."

"Unfortunately it's quite constant in Cherbourg too. It needs to be addressed, and addressed seriously."

Mr Neal worked for CTC for six months and was based over at Connections for about three of those months.

"It felt like it was happening at least once a fortnight," he said.

"It's an important topic that people don't want to talk about. This needs to change."

Mr Neal said he had done his best to be open about his depression but found many people still reluctant to discuss the issue.

"They go, 'You really want to talk about that?' and I'm like, 'Well yeah, I do.'

"Because it's no different to having cancer or another illness."

Some even responded by saying they had also felt that way, then Mr Neal was able to encourage them to seek out professional help.

Just like he did.

"When I first started seeing someone I would park my car further down the street and worry about who saw me walking in," Mr Neal said.

"Now I don't care. It is what it is."

Mr Neal has especially focused on being open about mental illnesses with his sons, who are 14 and 16 years old.

"I try to make sure that if they are feeling any of those things that they can talk to me or someone about it," he said.

"I grew up further out west where I experienced a lot of single older male farmers who just died. It was never spoken about how they died, but we knew."

For as long as he can remember there has been a stigma around struggling with mental health and suicide.

"The more we are open about it and the more we talk, the more chance we will have," he said.

"You can't just pretend it wasn't suicide. You can't stay silent."