On November 17 last year, the small farming town of Simpson in Victoria’s South-West, suddenly and unexpectedly lost a great man – James ‘Goose’ Guy, to a silent battle with mental health.
Goose was also known as the “King of the Cows”.
Goose unexpectedly lost his battle with his undiagnosed mental health illness, leaving his loving family and friends devastated. Many questions were being asked, the main question being “why?”. His wife Mary and three adult children Rhiannon, Courtney and Shaun, were left heart broken, with no answers.
Rhiannon speaks of how her father was boisterous, loving and willing to do whatever he could to help his friends and family. “My dad. The man with the biggest laugh and the biggest heart,” she said.
After Goose’s death, his friends Mick Royal and Jeff Holmes, two local Simpson men, were on a road trip for work when they drove past some silage in a paddock wrapped in blue plastic. “Jeff and I talked about the hardships that had fallen on our local dairy farmers, and subsequently the Guy family, and Goose. A 60-minute brainstorming session in the car, and by the time we reached (our destination), our heads were full. While Jeff attended a pre-arranged meeting, I started to put our thoughts onto paper, and 90 minutes later, Beyondblue – In Honour of Goose, was born,” Mick said.
Mick and Jeff came up with a list of events for the Simpson area to raise awareness for mental health. They discussed what to do, where to start and who could possibly help them. But they both agreed that before anything started, they should ask Mary for her permission.
“It took less than 30 seconds to see a smile appear across her face, and hear the words ‘go for it’. Then the work began,” Mick said.
The main goal for Mick and Jeff, was to raise awareness for mental health around Simpson and the district. The target of $10,000 was set up for Beyondblue. In no time at all, there were money tins being sent out to businesses around the district, a Facebook page was set up and the online following grew into the hundreds overnight.
Mick and Jeff hosted their first event, a barbeque at the local Simpson Football and Netball Club rooms. After a huge storm passing through the night before, they were left with no power. However, they pushed on and had a very successful event, with Neville Brady an ex-Richmond AFL player as guest speaker. They raised more than $350.
“On May 6, there was a Mental Health awareness football round, hosted by South Colac Football Club and the Simpson Football and Netball Club. Originally, there was going to be a Beyondblue money tin at the gate of the football ground for donations, but the two club presidents came together and decided to create an entire round dedicated to mental health awareness,” Rhiannon said.
The two clubs had special jumpers created for the round. South Colac had green guernseys scripted with “Stigma stops with me” and Simpson had blue guernseys with “It’s okay to not be okay” written on them.
There were guest speakers at the football game who all previously, or currently, were suffering from mental health problems.
The Guy family said they were overwhelmed with the love and support they received on that day.
The next event was a Poker night, held on May 8, which brought in more than 40 players and raised $713.00 for the awareness campaign.
A few weeks later, on May 30, a Ladies’ Only Dessert Night was arranged. A guest speaker from Lifeline presented a speech about mental health and how to pick the signs and symptoms. With more than 60 local ladies taking part in the event, Mick and Jeff were getting very close to their goal of $10,000.
The final event for Beyondblue – In Honour of Goose, was hosted on July 28. The event sold out and 120 people, from all over the state, gathered together to show their support for breaking the stigma of mental health.
Matty Stewart, from Coast FM’s radio show Monkey and the Big Fella, emceed the night. There was a raffle draw, a live auction and several guest speakers.
Colac physiotherapist, Grant Brauer, shared his story of a lifetime battle with anxiety, which he still carries with him today. “I had a mini panic attack in the carpark before I walked in here tonight,” he told the crowd.
The overwhelming support and acceptance of the room bought strength to members of the crowd, who stood up and shared their own personal experiences with mental health.
Goose’s second daughter, Courtney, concluded the speakers, by reminiscing on her late father’s life, and sharing what her and her family’s life was now like without him. She urged the crowd to continue raising awareness for mental health and to ask the people around them if they are okay. “It is okay, to not be okay,” was Courtney’s final remark.
Mick said the whole campaign had been a great success. “There will always be some hesitation for people to speak up about mental health, especially their own if they are suffering. This entire campaign was centred on breaking down those barriers, and letting people know that it is okay to ask for help. If we have helped one person seek help, then it has been a successful five months,” he said.
“Looking back, both myself and Jeff feel proud of what we have been able to do for Men’s Health Awareness, Beyondblue, the local community, and mostly the Guy family. Personally, it has changed me, and I believe I have come out the other side a better person.”
The campaign, Beyondblue – In Honour of Goose, has raised more than $21,500.
Rhiannon thanked all those who had been a part of the campaign. “The best thing we can do is save this from happening to another family. The man with the big heart and the big voice will forever be remembered and we cannot thank everyone enough for their support and love shown towards us,” she said.