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Wesley Hospital partners with Surf Life Saving NSW to help save lives this World Mental Health Day

‘Wesley the elephant’ at Wesley Hospital’s 2018 mental health campaign; Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steven Pearce with members on the beach

On World Mental Health Day (Thursday 10 October 2019) Wesley Hospital will team-up with Surf Life Saving New South Wales (SLSNSW) to raise awareness of the importance of mental health – on the beach, in the workplace, and within the local community.

Wesley Hospital is Wesley Mission’s mental health hospital network in Sydney’s Ashfield and Kogarah and has provided world-class treatment to Australians suffering from mental health conditions for more than 60 years.

On 10 October, Wesley Hospital will bring ‘Wesley’ – a giant inflatable elephant – to Avalon Beach Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC). They will be joined by Wesley Mission CEO the Rev Dr Keith V Garner AM, Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steven Pearce AFSM and Surf Life Saving Sydney Northern Beaches Traumatic Incident Peer Support (TIPS) CEO Steve McInnes.

Avalon Beach SLSC will set-up flags on the beach and their lifesavers will don their red and yellow patrol caps for the occasion. This is the third consecutive year Wesley Hospital is bringing Wesley the Elephant – and gifting miniature Wesley ‘stress elephants’ – to the public. These events raise awareness of, and facilitate open discussions about, the high prevalence of mental illness, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in the community.

Highlighting the importance of the day, Wesley Mission CEO, the Rev Dr Keith V Garner AM said, “Wesley Mission’s own research has shown that around eight in ten Australians will know someone with a mental health issue. All of us have a role to play in dispelling the silence surrounding mental illness and to support the people–friends, family and colleagues–who are suffering.”

The figures of professional emergency services workers experiencing PTSD are alarming. Almost 10 percent of these workers experience high or very high psychological distress, such as PTSD, compared to four percent of the general population. Surf Life Saving NSW is committed to ensuring the positive mental health of their volunteer membership base, and have a range of initiatives in place to support members in their lifesaving activities.

Patricia (‘Trish’) Newton OAM is the founding chair and co-ordinator of Surf Life Saving NSW’s Traumatic Incident Peer Support (TIPS) team. The program plays a critical role in ensuring the welfare and mental wellbeing of members in the Sydney Northern Beaches Branch who have been involved in a critical incident.

Having mentored and motivated surf lifesavers involved in traumatic incidences for more than 25 years, Trish knows first-hand the impact saving lives can sometimes have on the mental health of emergency service workers, including lifesavers. She welcomes Wesley Hospital’s ‘elephant in the room’ initiative, which she says is another important way of facilitating open discussions around mental health for people at the beach.

“Our TIPS team has been providing surf lifesaving members and their families with crucial support for more than 25 years. Our motto is ‘be there, stay there.’ We know the importance of being on-call, down at the beach, when a critical incident occurs,” said Trish Newton.

“Providing a mental health support service to all involved is crucial in these events, and we’re excited to joining with Wesley Hospital, as they bring their giant elephant to the beach to promote awareness around just that.”

Dr John Kearney, clinical psychologist and Director of Psychological Services at Wesley Hospital Kogarah, specialises in PTSD treatment. He is aware of the importance of providing peer support and mental health first-aid training for frontline community and healthcare workers.

“Around one-fifth of emergency service workers report high-levels of psychological stress and do not always recognise the signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety or PTSD in themselves. It can be prolonged over many years, and often people don’t realise that it’s affecting their everyday lives until it impacts their relationships, work and daily activities.

“By joining with Surf Life Saving NSW, we’re encouraging the public to talk more openly about the ‘elephant in the room’ and increase public awareness and appreciation of the unique and challenging role fulfilled by emergency service personnel and staff,” Dr Kearney concluded. 

Further support from attendees and the industry:

Steven Pearce, CEO of Surf Life Saving NSW, said he was delighted that SLSNSW was joining forces with Wesley Hospital this Mental Health Month to encourage SLSNSW members to join the conversation and share their mental health journeys. “Avalon Surf Life Saving Club has received awards for its youth programs and engagement with young people, so Wesley Hospital’s event, which fittingly is taking place on World Mental Health Day, is important in supporting open and honest discussions about mental health among our younger members.” 

Event details:

  • What: Wesley Hospital raises awareness of the ‘elephant in the room’ at Avalon Surf Life Saving Club, in partnership with Surf Life Saving NSW
  • Where: Avalon Beach SLSC, 558A Barrenjoey Road, Avalon Beach NSW, 2107
  • When: 11:00am to 11:30am on Thursday 10 October 2019
  • Notable attendees: Wesley Mission CEO the Rev Dr Keith V Garner, Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steven Pearce AFSM, Surf Life Saving Sydney Northern Beaches Traumatic Incident Peer Support (TIPS) team CEO Steve McInnes, Deputy Mayor of Northern Beaches Council Clr Sue Heins, Northern Beaches Councillors (Pittwater Ward) Clr Kylie Ferguson and Clr Ian White, and Wesley Hospital’s Director of Nursing Sara Kenna

About Wesley Hospital

Wesley Hospital ( has provided world-class treatment for mental health conditions for more than 60 years to patients from all over Australia. Its two private Sydney centres – Wesley Hospital Ashfield and Wesley Hospital Kogarah – offer evidence-based psychiatric, nursing and psychological support to help in the recovery, management and prevention of eating disorders, depression, anxiety, addiction and other mental health conditions. The highly experienced team of medical professionals includes renowned leaders in mental health research and treatment. Wesley Hospital is run by Wesley Mission. For more information, visit

About Surf Life Saving NSW

Surf Life Saving New South Wales (SLSNSW) is the peak water safety, drowning prevention and rescue organisation in NSW and one of the largest volunteer-based community service organisations in Australia. Throughout NSW, the organisation’s 11 Branches, 129 Surf Life Saving Clubs and four community Nipper groups now comprise of over 75,000 members. Today the organisation encompasses a range of diverse activities – lifesaving services, community education, surf sports, member development and training – all of which contribute to the primary purpose to save lives and meet our target of zero preventable deaths and injuries on NSW beaches. 

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