Mind the Valley was a project of Lifeline Gippsland with the Latrobe Valley Community to share community knowledge about supporting each other's mental health

This project was undertaken by Elbow Founder Sam Forbes as an employee of Lifeline Gippsland

As part of the Victorian Government’s response to the Hazelwood Mine Fire, Lifeline Gippsland was commissioned to work with the Latrobe Valley community to develop an education session that would help people support each other’s mental health and wellbeing. 

During 2018 Sam worked with a group of volunteers called ‘Friends of Lifeline’ to codesign the content and structure of the session, which was based around the key messages of the ‘R U OK’ campaign. This material was chosen as the campaign is so well recognised in the community. 

The simple key steps promoted by R U OK are to Ask, Listen, Encourage Action and Check in when helping someone with their mental health. Sam worked with the Friends of Lifeline group to build a 1hr. facilitated conversation about these steps, including local community knowledge and input. 

The session was delivered to over 300 people in the Latrobe Valley including: 

  • Migrants learning English
  • Secondary school students
  • Power station workers
  • Work for the Dole participants
  • University students
  • A local scouts group
  • Carers of people with drug and alcohol addictions
  • Aged Care residents 
Overwhelming participants in the session noted that they had heard of the R U OK campaign, but did not know how to follow up with people if they did identify that they having trouble. Evaluation of the project showed that people learnt the steps in the sessions and that many went on to use it in their own lives. 


This project was a great example of tackling a major social issue or question from a community development perspective. It did this by taking the approach that people actually do know how to look after each other and tapping into this knowledge to speak directly about mental health. Volunteers in the project were involved in every step along the way and several went on to volunteer at Lifeline in other capacities and to use the experience to gain further employment. 

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