Clermont pharmacist Grant Oswald wins award for Jugs and Jocks event helping men’s mental health
- Central Queensland pharmacist Grant Oswald began the “Jugs and Jocks” event in his small community to raise awareness for men’s mental health
- He started it in response to his own mental health struggles
- He has since won a community engagement award for his mental health work in Clermont
Grant Oswald is the only pharmacist in his small central Queensland town and often works gruelling 60-hour weeks to make sure everyone has their medicine.
But living in Clermont and getting to know the residents, he realised there were far too many male “bushies” who struggled to speak about their mental health.
“We all service our tractors and our cars every six months, and we just don’t make time for ourselves,” Mr Oswald said.
So the pharmacist got to work and created a mental health awareness event in the town, dubbed “Jugs and Jocks”, which has won him a national award from his pharmacy company for community engagement.
“I just saw this need,” he said.
“I was also sneaking down that path of the black dog and I probably needed someone to talk to.”
Mr Oswald brought The Resilience Project to Clermont, and once a year he puts on the Jugs and Jocks event at the pub so men can get together to talk, with guest speakers covering topics like mental health, finances and family.
While pants are preferred these days, when it began about five years ago, Mr Oswald said he did attend in his jocks to kickstart the conversation about vulnerability.
“Bushies don’t want to show your weak side … we’re trying to break down that stigma,” Mr Oswald said.
“It’s amazing when you get to a night like that, you start talking to some blokes, we’re all going through the same stuff.
“It’s just really comforting sometimes to know how we’re all facing the same challenges.”
Mr Oswald has also brought the project to two local primary schools in Clermont.
He said next year, NRL players from the North Queensland Cowboys were expected to run a presentation with students, and later one for the wider community at the Jugs and Jocks event.
Barriers to help
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, about 28 per cent of the country’s population live in regional and remote areas.
In 2021, it found the suicide rate for people in remote areas was 21.2 per 100,000, compared to 10 per 100,000 in cities.
CQ University senior lecturer in psychology Helen Mason said isolation could be a big factor in poorer mental health outcomes.
She said outside metropolitan areas, people could face a lack of services, and cost and distance could also be barriers.
“Culturally there’s also a bit of a tendency for people to persist or soldier on,” Dr Mason said.
“That’s okay for short periods to get them through something, but we find that people typically persist for a lot longer than it’s helpful for them.”
She said connecting to others through community events and local services was the best way to improve feelings of isolation.
“Actually listening can be a really important component. So when you’re talking with somebody … we might rush to fill silence because we’re not comfortable or unsure,” she said.
“We might jump into problem-solving mode, but actually when we’re just listening with someone, we’re giving that person the message that they are valued, that what they’re thinking or feeling or sharing is important and that we’re there for them.”
Meditating in the bush
Livestock sales agent and auctioneer in Clermont Jake Passfield said the annual event was important for everyone in the community.
“Every day we’ve got to make big decisions, tough decisions and there is more and more pressure put on every day,” Mr Passfield said.
“Traditionally males keep everything inside and bottle it up and don’t know how to say to their mates or to their partners or wives, ‘I think there’s something going on, I need to talk’.
“Jugs and Jocks, it’s reducing that stigma and training the rural men that it’s going to be okay — let’s talk about it.”
Mr Passfield said the event was a credit to Mr Oswald’s efforts in the community.
“We only had a conversation with a bloke the other day with The Resilience Project and … [they] spoke about meditating,” he said.
“This rural man, he still to this day is meditating. He’s got a big operation and it’s good to see that it’s a success story.”
Mr Oswald has spent the past 15 years in Clermont and joked that he was “the busiest man in the Central Highlands”.
“It does get long, [the work is] long and busy. But my dad was the only pharmacist in a town himself, so when I grew up I knew what I was in for,” he said.
“I think the rewards in a town like this are there for all to see.”