A documentary about the Border's winter solstice will be used as a resource to ignite changes to mental health Australia-wide.
Albury-based filmmaker Helen Newman has spent the past year documenting the stories of people at the coal-face of the battle for better mental health care - the survivors of suicide.
The film, which "bravely steps into the gaping hole left when a person dies by suicide", aims to start conversations and unite communities, she said.
The idea for a documentary came about after Newman was asked to film the 2018 Albury-Wodonga Winter Solstice for Survivors of Suicide gathering at QEII Square.
The event was founded by Stuart and Annette Baker after their 15-year-old daughter Mary died by suicide in March, 2011.
"Last year Annette asked me if I could make a film about the solstice and I said yes, not realising the enormity of this massive subject," Newman said.
"I have found this one of the most emotional, challenging, immediate and raw projects that I have taken on."
At the film's heart are the devastating stories of people with a lived experience of suicide.
Newman said it was a privilege to share their journeys in the 45-minute production, which is still a work in progress.
"I want to make sure I honour that trust with my storytelling," she said.
"I knew I was going into something that would ask a lot of me."
Newman, an award-winning filmmaker who has documented sex-trafficking in Cambodia and children living on rubbish dumps in Thailand, said this project struck a particular chord with her.
"Firstly I think the type of grief that accompanies suicide is so different," she said.
"And this film is within my own community - I felt the weight of creating such an important and public document.
"It was terrifying, actually.
"There is such a huge need for more support in the field of mental health."
In Solstice, that point is made compellingly by renowned mental health advocate Professor Patrick McGorry who says the missing ingredient in mental health "is the people's voice".
"Politicians would not be able to neglect cancer the way they neglect mental health because the public would rise up," he stated.
With 3000 Australians dying by suicide each year, Newman said it was critical we "hear the voices of those most affected by suicide to understand the changes that will be most effective".
- 'Solstice' will preview at Albury's Regent Cinemas on November 23, 2019. For details, go to the film website.
- The 2019 Albury-Wodonga Winter Solstice is on Friday, June 21 from 5.30pm at Albury's QEII Square - this year's speakers include Rosie Batty, Commando Steve and Kathy and Ralph Kelly. For more information go to the Facebook page.