Lauren Dempsey prepares to conquer Mount Kosciuszko, raising funds for R U OK?

Local Stawell resident Lauren Dempsey, will conquer Mt Kosciuszko this long weekend to raise money for R U OK? and continue her mission to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.

R U OK? is a not-for-profit organisation founded in 2009 by Gavin Larkin, designed to begin conversations and bring the world together so we are all connected and protected from suicide.

Lauren Dempsey prepares for her trek, climbing the Grampians during training
PHOTO: Contributed

On Friday she will travel to Jindabyne in New South Wales before trekking up the 2,228m high mountain on Saturday. She will be joined by travellers from across the country alongside members of Huma Charity Challenge – the organisers of the event. R U OK? Ambassadors will also conquer the mountain, including media personality ‘Commando’ Steve Willis and performer Rob Mills.

Dempsey works at the Grampians Pyrenees Primary Care Partnership in Ararat as a Health Promotion Coordinator, travelling from her home in Stawell. She also has a strong passion for spreading mental health awareness due to her own experiences with depression and anxiety.

‘Mental illness can make a person feel isolated and alone and the journey can involve many ups and downs. I wanted to open up and share my story with others in the hope of helping others to not feel as alone as I did when I was experiencing my worst,’ explained Dempsey.

A $700 fundraising goal was set when she first joined the challenge but that number was quickly overtaken, as of publishing she has raised $1,122.70 for the organisation.

This adventure isn’t the first for the 28-year-old, who tackled the Himalayas of Bhutan in 2015 when she raised over $5,000 for the Black Dog Institute, another mental health organisation.

Views Lauren enjoyed while hiking the Himalayas of Bhutan in 2015
PHOTO: Contributed

In 2017, suicide was the leading cause of death for Australians between 15-44 years of age, with 3,000 people across all age groups taking their own lives and another 65,000 attempting to. Dempsey says that resources are especially minimal in regional Australia so we need to look out for one another.

“If we can work together to build a resilient community, we can take one step closer towards the prevention of mental illness. Prevention and early intervention is important to stop the statistics increasing.”

She says that people need to know they can reach support services at Grampians Community Health or by visiting their GP to organise a mental health plan and obtain free or subsidised psychologist sessions.

“I hope we get to a point one day where we can all talk about our struggles openly with people and feel supported to seek help and talk openly. You are not alone. It’s okay not to be okay.”

Dempsey has been heading to the gym most days in preparation for the climb, as well as utilising the Grampians for training. She will continue to spread mental health awareness into the future and is in the process of compiling personal experiences for a possible publication.

You can support Lauren by donating on her ‘Conquer Kozi 2019’ page or by visiting her Facebook page and keeping up to date with her ongoing work.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention and mental health support can contact Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.