Now this guy is no ordinary man. In his 60’s, living rural all his life on a 4th generation property, 110km from Wagga in a place called Stockinbingal. John has been working in the mental health space since 2006 when he helped a mate out with depression, drawing on his own personal experiences back in 2000 . We asked John how he came to be involved with Gus Worland and Gotcha4Life and about his work with mental health in country communities.
G4L: How did you become associated with Gotcha4Life and Gus Worland?
CHINA: “I first met Gus whilst filming the 3 part series, Man Up in 2016. Gus was the narrator. The producers found me as I do lots of rural mental well being stuff”. China has an initiative called ‘mates helping mates and this is a similar program to mates in construction. These programs were established with the concept that the ownership and control of the programs is with the industry. The simple idea that suicide is everyone’s business and that if we are to improve the mental health and wellbeing of workers and farmers we must not leave it to the health professionals but rather everyone must play their part. China says, “I’d never met Gus before. He lobs up with a grin, big smile and hugs me. A real northern beaches boy entirely different personality to a rough nut farmer like me.” It was Gus’s authenticity, warmth and genuine interest in what was going on in rural communities that cemented the relationship between the two. ROC (Rural Outreach Counselling) is one of the programs that Gotcha4Life now support and regularly visit.
G4L: China, would you mind sharing your personal drive and passion to be involved with the Gotcha4Life foundation?
CHINA: “I have been an ordinary community member helping mates through their tough times for many years. When I met Gus and we realised we were both trying to help mates, I naturally new that our joint work would ultimately benefit the people we were trying to support. Men won’t get off their arse to help themselves, but will help a mate if they believe they are in strife.” China thinks that there is a lot of strength and positive direction through mate ship relations and we must educate our males in this. ROC and the work that China does is all encompassing, they consider woman as mates and their work is helping all those in rural communities. China says, “ We believe there is a lot of suffering and misery that could be avoided. We just need to practise mate ship and our emotional side.”
Both men believe that the current society has gone toward prioritising money and time. Measured in KPI’s. “We gotta get the balance right.” He says. “Its about balancing care and love required by a human beings.”
China works with connecting remote people with each other and being there for them when they reach out. He is in a mentor role. Working with school kids right through to blokes in their 60’s and 70’s.
He believes that the role of woman has changed in the last 20 years. It’s improved and the move towards equality has caused pressure on men and how they perceive themselves. In rural areas, this is particularly evident as men have always focused on being the hunter and gatherer. Men now have to look at nurturing and caring for their families. They have to broaden their horizons. China sees all facets of mental welling being, from health to relationships to the security of finding a job that makes you feel worthwhile.
What China likes about the association with Gotcha4Life is that it’s a two way street. He does talks in the city and Gotcha4Life make sure they are present in rural areas. He believes that we can all help each other. Gotcha4Life comes out to the bush with fresh eyes and brings workshops like Tomorrow Man to our schools and facilitates men’s work sheds. These initiatives get the conversation started and allow men to see that talking, connecting with others and having a mate is so important.
China says, “we would like people to come and visit us, stay with us and learn about our life. See how we live. If we see each others lives, then we can help each other. I go to the city and work in soup kitchens to see how it is there, to see how city people are doing it tough.”
G4L:What do you hope ROC can achieve for males in Australia? What would you really love all men to grasp to impact social change over the next few years.”
CHINA: “Roc is for males and females. We would like people to be comfortable in acknowledging they have a problem in mental health and have enough confidence in their community leaders to access the right resources to help them with their problems. Only 30% of people present. “
Roc are working on the concept of ‘mate ship’ and ‘mate keeper’ in the hope that they will feel free enough to talk to and go to their mate. Being associated with Gotcha4Life is helping provide the skills to know how to do this.
China believes that ultimately men have to change their image of themselves. He says, “men have to understand that they have another role. Today, men in society have to help their wife and family. They have to be be prepared to change nappies and take the kids to sport. Help around the house. Its not men go to work and woman stay home any more.”
To find out more about John (China) Harper and ROC visit: http://www.ruraloutreachcounselling.com.au/
Follow on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/matehelpingmate/