A Newcastle photographer who has used his love of art and photography to help take control of his mental health is now encouraging others to do the same.
October is Mental Health Month, and local photographer Matt Richards hopes to inspire others to improve their mental health and seek the right support to overcome challenges.
After experiencing his own mental health struggles, Richards found comfort and connection through photography.
He got into photography after taking photos of Lake Macquarie and Newcastle’s beaches and ocean baths. Once friends took notice of his talents, he became inspired to take on the hobby a little more seriously.
“I’ve worked hard on myself over the past three years, and with the benefit of a great support network, I have come out the other side,” Richards said.
“The photography has helped me too.
“I want to use my photography to get people talking about mental health and to spread the message that, with the right support, people can overcome challenges. For people contemplating suicide, there is hope.”
Working with Mitch Revs Gallery, Richards sells prints of his work, giving him tremendous support and encouragement to hone his newly discovered passion.
He raised $10,000 last year for Lifeline Hunter after offering one of his prints as a raffle prize.
For Mental Health Month this year, Richards will raffle off an oak timber-framed photograph he took of Newcastle Beach.
“I have a fascination with the ocean, and this photo is of the water wrapping itself around the city,” he said.
“To me, this photo symbolises how, as a community, we have worked together and got behind each other to get through the challenges of the COVID pandemic and come out the other side.”
The raffle closes on October 31, and tickets are $10 each.
There are discounts for multiple ticket purchases. To buy tickets, visit here.
Meanwhile, the City of Newcastle has launched its Healthy Hearts & Minds eight-week campaign to mark World Mental Health Day, which was recognised on October 10.
The campaign encourages the community to improve their physical and mental health while earning discounts that can be redeemed at local businesses.
Healthy Hearts & Minds involves a series of active challenges, mindfulness programs and online workshops run through the Lean in Newy app, which translates good deeds into credits and discounts to use at 130 local businesses.
Headspace Newcastle Community Development Officer Byron Williams said the campaign aligned with Headspace Newcastle’s theme this year of “small steps start big things”.
“This is a great initiative that will encourage our community to prioritise their physical and mental health, whilst knowing they are doing something good by supporting small local businesses,” Williams said.
“There are some basic things that are really important but obviously really easy to forget when someone is in the midst of depression or anxiety – exercise and getting outside is a big one, but also staying connected with friends, family, school and work.”
Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the Healthy Hearts & Minds program was a fun and innovative way to improve community wellbeing while providing direct economic support for small businesses.
“Healthy Hearts & Minds is run through the Lean in Newy app and features a range of challenges which can be done at home or require you to get out and use a range of facilities across the local government area like exercise equipment and walking trails,” Cr Nelmes said.
“Challenges include swimming 500 metres at your local pool, running on Bathers Way, doing push-ups at one of City of Newcastle’s outdoor fitness stations, and participating in a free online mental health workshop.”
Lean in Newy is part of the City of Newcastle’s COVID-19 Community Economic Resilience Package.
Download the Lean in Newy app free from the App Store.