City names citizens of the year

January 27, 2022 BY

Recognition: Alannah McGregor has been named the City of Greater Bendigo Citizen of the Year. Photos: PETER WEAVING

TWO mental health advocates have been recognised for their hard work, as the City of Greater Bendigo’s Citizen and Young Citizen of the Year.

Co-founder of Suicide Prevention Awareness Network Central Victoria, Alannah McGregor and 23-year-old headspace Bendigo fundraiser Jed Zimmer were awarded the titles last Friday.

Ms McGregor has been working on increasing community awareness about the impact of suicide son and daughter took their own lives.

The inaugural recipient of the Fred Hollow’s Foundation Humanitarian of the Year, which celebrates people showing care for others, Ms McGregor said was never expecting the nomination.

“It was surreal to begin with,” she said. “After thinking about it for a few hours I was just so honoured and grateful to the man who nominated me, Andrew Reid.”

Ms McGregor has spoken at schools and impacted many people’s lives in her mission to bring better awareness to the complex challenges of suicide.

“It still makes me feel a bit teary that telling what we had been through had made such a difference, it made me realise that’s what I need to keep doing,” she said.

“The stigma around mental health has changed a lot, it is reducing. There’s still pockets we need to work on but people are much more open to ask for help, and to offer help, which is fantastic.”

Meanwhile, Mr Zimmer was recognised for his efforts last year raising $20,000 through a push-up challenge, encouraging the community to do 3318 push-ups, representing the number of Australians who died by suicide in 2019.

Jed Zimmer is the Young Citizen of the Year.

Working as a personal trainer, Mr Zimmer is currently studying secondary education and founded The Health Project podcast, that aims to share ways to improve health and happiness, especially in young men.

“Throughout my teenage years I went through some difficult times were there was a lot of adversity,” he said.

“I felt a real need that if I could get out and share my story that could hopefully lead to others and we could hopefully break the stigma down.”

Both Ms McGregor and Mr Zimmer agreed education around mental health has improved, but still has some way to go.

“By getting out there and sharing your story, that can open up a conversation and open doors for others to come out and share their story,” Mr Zimmer said.

“We’re all going to go through those challenges in life, but to understand you’re not alone and you can have the confidence to get out there and share your story will make a huge difference.”

Ms McGregor said she is impressed by Mr Zimmer’s efforts.

“It’s really hard to speak up at my age and to be doing it as a young person with the fear of what your friends might say or think, I think Jed’s message is really important,” she said.

“It tells young people it is okay, nobody’s going to judge you or make jokes about you, get out there and ask for help.”

If you need mental health support, visit beyondblue.org.au or call their 24/7 hotline on 1300 22 4636. You can also visit lifeline.org.au or call them on 13 11 14 and help for young people is available at kidshelpline.com.au or by calling them on 1800 55 1800.