TRAINER Claire Stone says she'll never retire - and there's a simple reason.
"It makes my heart warm when I'm training," she says.
"With some of the reactions that I get from students, I know I've been an instrument or a tool to give them that power or learning that they can use to help others.
"It might sound a little cliched, but it's true."
Ms Stone, a Bathurst VERTO trainer and assessor, has designed and delivered suicide prevention and resilience training that has helped hundreds of people in some of the most remote areas of the state.
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"The communities I work with - Bourke, Cobar, Lightning Ridge and Walgett - are often isolated and there are not many trained people on the ground with an understanding of mental health," she said.
They are communities that, because of their location, have challenges to face even before the worst of the natural elements are thrown into the mix.
"With the drought and the bushfires and COVID now, there has been a higher incidence of mental health issues and self-harm or suicide," Ms Stone said. "I'm giving them [her students] the tools to work more effectively in that area."
A registered general and psychiatric nurse who had experience working in drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres, she initially worked in disability employment and community services when she joined VERTO.
"People knew of my interest in mental health and I was given the opportunity to develop a mental health awareness community program, which I conducted - I put it all together and delivered it as well - and that led to my interest in the suicide prevalence in the Central West and Far West," she said.
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Ms Stone delivers her training by Zoom to her students, who are spread across the west, but talks to individual students by phone to give support and assistance.
Because the students are so spread out, she also has them get together in Dubbo once every three months or so for a couple of days to get to know one another.
"When we meet in Dubbo, I choose units [in the course] that can be confronting and quite often I need to be there face-to-face to support the students in the room.
"Often they can relate it to themselves or their close family."
It's checking on people, following up.
Most of her students are Aboriginal, she said, and most work for community services such as Mission Australia, the Aboriginal Medical Service or Live Better.
"I'd like to do more [training], actually; make it more available," she said, "because it's my belief that we should all know a bit about mental health and the impacts, especially in today's environment.
"I think knowledge and talking about it - opening it up, it's not taboo anymore - that will help stigma, which is such a damaging thing in our community. The stigma of mental health, the stigma of suicide, it prevents people from getting help."
Even though there is still a lot to be done when it comes to mental health in Australia, Ms Stone said "we have broken the ice in a lot of areas".
"It's checking on people, following up," she said. "There's nothing wrong with having anxiety or depression or whatever, but the longer you don't address it, the worse it gets, and that, unfortunately, leads to self-harm or risky behaviour.
"So I'm just doing my bit."