Join us in the paddock

There’s a lot of love in the Barossa and it’s one woman’s mission to harness and share it around in support of those struggling with mental health.

Megan McLoughlin, of Tanunda, founder of Herd of Hope, has a knack of bringing community together for an important cause and her “A Day in the Paddock” initiative on October 27 is doing just that.

To be held at the Barossa Valley Pony Club Grounds on Angaston Road, the day is all about showing support for each other and equipping people of every demographic with the skills to deliver good mental health.

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“What we do on a farm is we put everything in a paddock together and we ‘draught it off’ based on things in common. That’s what we are trying to do here…bringing people together,” Megan said.

“It’s not about suicide prevention, but five steps back from that and getting people back in contact with each other…. building that rapport.”

“We haven’t waited until there’s been some sort of traumatic incident like a bushfire or a flood or something to rally the community together, we know we can do it in those times. Instead, we’ve gone let’s show everyone we’ve got each other’s back.”

There’s talk of high profile sporting identities, McLeod’s Daughters, live music and many other exciting things on the programme, to create what Megan calls “old school” country hospitality.

“A community that stays together is stronger!” said Megan.

“We know that 93 per cent of cases of depression benefit from face to face value and appointments and face to face in peer support so that is huge.

“As humans, we are a herd… We want to be accepted and we want to be in a herd with someone. So let’s bring them all into the paddock so everyone can find their unique little herd!”

A “Farmer’s Challenge” with Barossa identities teaming up to do a course, is set to push participants out of their comfort zones and test their limits as they throw bales of hay on utes, milk goats and climb over ponies.

They’ll be “miked up” so everyone can hear their thoughts as they put their trust in their team mates.

“It’s going to be hilarious! They are going to be judged by my Dad, Jim Willoughby, so he is going to give them a score out of five for each obstacle they have.

“The one that I’m really proud of is “Grab the Bull by the Horns”. What happens is the cow, ‘Brenda’, will have a flag on her horns and one person is blindfolded and the other one has to direct her into the yard to pull the flag off!”

The event also has a no phone policy.

“You can bring your phone but there is a gold coin donation if one of the volunteers catches you! Because you have to give the people in your company the time of day!”

Soroptimist International of Barossa Valley is one of a myriad service clubs, sporting clubs and other organisations supporting the day.

Long serving Soroptimist member, Mrs Jayne Pfeiffer said they were excited to be involved after being inspired by Megan.

“She just pulls you along, she inspires and touches your heart,” Jayne said of Megan’s energy and passion for the cause.

“We were going to plan a mental health forum in November this year and I said let’s not re-invent the wheel, let’s all pull together and help Megan. The whole team is behind it and I think that is amazing.

“We don’t have all the answers, but we want people to come along and communicate, talk and open up.”

Jayne said she was amazed at just how many Barossa people were dealing with mental health issues.

“I’m telling people that this day is on and why we are doing it, and the amount of people who have said to me, I know, I’m one of those or my partner is one of those. …If everyone knew how many in the Barossa are one of those people, the Barossa would be very shocked, I certainly am.”

Every cent raised during “A Day in the Paddock” will go back into the community with the inaugural event set to provide a blueprint for other regional Councils throughout Australia interested in hosting one in their own communities.

Megan’s goal is for the event to become a permanent fixture on the Barossa calendar, but her ultimate aim is to save lives by showing people they are not isolated.

Money raised will fund vouchers for local cafes where “friends can bring friends” and provide a listening ear in times of need.

“We want people to know that it is okay to be not okay and if you ever find yourself in need and would like a coffee with a friend, you can have one “on the paddock”.

“I think the key component to what we are doing is the whole statistic that 7 out of 10 people who have attempted suicide wouldn’t have done it that day if someone had acknowledged them. It’s about getting people to acknowledge each other again.

“If you can put someone there when someone is starting to go, oh God, life’s hard, we know that all it takes is that one person to ask, are you okay? Let’s go have a coffee – they’ve got someone backing them.”