Coffee lovers were surprised and delighted with a free cup 'on HealthWISE' when they visited Brooker Trading Co in Moree, Warialda's Country Dust Café and the Croppa Creek Store on Thursday morning.
The local health organisation shouted the morning rush in coffee shops throughout the region in an effort to work with local country businesses and give customers a break.
The free coffee came with a reminder to check in with friends and family as part of R U OK? Day and World Suicide Prevention Day on Thursday, September 10.
Customers were offered resources on how to start a conversation on mental health and information on a free Hunter New England and Central Coast PHN counselling service called Mind Health.
"People can feel powerless when confronted with mental illness and suicide, and it is important to recognise that community education and connectedness is one of the best models towards prevention," HealthWISE senior mental health clinician Anne Galloway said.
"Given these difficult times, HealthWISE decided to partner with cafes in locations where we have offices across the region.
"What better place to begin a conversation with someone?
"It could be a work colleague or it could be someone you nod to everyday. We sponsored coffee as a little act of kindness, providing an opportunity for people to step back for a moment and reflect on how they're doing and also how their neighbours or friends are doing."
Armidale coffee shop owner David Lawton was delighted to take part.
"We see it as an important part of being part of the community, and as really good initiative to help raise our profile," he said.
"I think it's a great time when we stop and ask friends, family and colleagues about their mental health."
HealthWISE has long supported mental health in the community and offers a range of services across the region, including mental health clinicians, lived experience, Aboriginal outreach, drought and bushfire relief.
Anne said that the words 'are you okay?' were simple, but could have a far-reaching effect for those struggling with mental illness, contemplating suicide or working through grief.
She acknowledged that it can be difficult to know how to react when someone tells you that they are not okay, which is why coffee drinkers were offered information on Mind Health.
Funded by the Hunter New England and Central Coast PHN, locals can call 1300 029 131 or visit mindhealth.org.au to access free professional counselling. It allows more focused intervention as participants can access the same counsellor for multiple sessions.
"A conversation 'are you okay?' doesn't necessarily turn into a counselling session, so please don't think that's what we have to do - we just have to reach out and say 'I want to know'," Anne said.
R U OK recommends four key steps in starting a conversation; asking someone if they're okay, listening and taking what they seriously, encouraging action by urging them to commit to doing something that might help their situation and finally checking in at a later date.
HealthWISE gratefully acknowledges funding support from HNECC PHN and the NSW Ministry of Health.
Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for 24/7 crisis support. Always call 000 if a life is in danger.