BUILDING the troops of people "brave enough to start a conversation" on mental health is the mission of a speaker running workshops across the region and beyond.
Described as mental health first aid, the Highway to Well courses recognise that, just like a physical ailment, treatment is necessary and available - and it's important to seek it early.
One of the courses will be a free, two-day course in Quirindi especially on providing help, or seeking help, in a drought-affected community.
Director and speaker Sarah Green said: "You don't have to have all the answers to start a conversation with someone you're concerned about."
Mrs Green is based in Tamworth and also works as a mental health counsellor part-time.
Among her workshops are mental health first aid courses and refreshers, plus targeted courses such as for people who work with youths, or for dealing with non-suicidal self-injury or self-harm.
Courses can cover illnesses or episodes such as the latter, as well as depression, anxiety, psychosis, substance misuse, eating disorders and suicide.
"Obviously mental health is a massive issue, and it's continuing to grow - and I think a lot of people don't have access to the information they need on how to have a conversation with someone they're worried about and where to refer them to," Mrs Green said.
She said there was still "a lot of stigma around mental illness" but "awareness and understanding have come a long way".
People are reluctant to get involved - not because they don't want to help, but because they're scared of doing the wrong thing.Sarah Green
"But I still find people are reluctant to get involved - not because they don't want to help, but because they're scared of doing the wrong thing or they feel like it's none of their business.
"The courses are really about arming people with the words and understanding and empathy to be brave enough to start those conversations."
The Quirindi course is funded by a drought communities program through the Primary Health Network
Mrs Green said that, although rural and urban areas had similar rates of mental illness, rural people often had greater barriers to getting help.
"Rurally, we're impacted by lack of access to services, travel times, wait times, cost; and we don't understand the number of services we can access online ...
"There are ways to be creative to overcome the distance barriers, and it also improves anonymity."
For people who were feeling mentally unwell, Mrs Green said that, much like an injury, "if you need help, go get it".
"Don't wait 25 years and think it's going to be a quick fix."
For family members or friends of people going through mental ill-health, she said, it was important to be aware.
"The more of us that are aware of, or can pick up on, warning signs ... the better the outcomes are for people going through tough times and - let's face it, we're all going to go through them at some stage.
"I think it's a life skills course."