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Inking outside the square

Ashleigh Bowman, left, and Sacred Art Tattoo owner Sarah Tredray have teamed up to raise funds for Wairarapa mental health service Yellow Brick Road. PHOTOS/JOHN LAZO-RON.

In the lead-up to Mental Health Awareness Week, a couple of Masterton women are looking to stamp their mark in support of mental awareness in Wairarapa. JOHN LAZO-RON reports.

In 2017, Ashleigh Bowman lost her husband to mental health issues.

She describes the times that followed as some of the hardest for her life and her three children.

When she initially looked for the support her young family needed it was scarce.

She didn’t know who, or where, to turn to.

“When my husband died I didn’t know where to go,” she said.

“It was a very hard time, and the fact that I had to eventually go to a doctor to get a referral to go to counselling, that was a big step because I already had little faith in the medical profession, because my husband died at a mental health unit in Wairarapa Hospital.”

She said she felt all hope was lost until she was eventually introduced to Wairarapa mental health service Yellow Brick Road.

Ashleigh Bowman and Sarah Tredray have both felt the effects of mental health issues

There, Bowman was able to find the support she and her children needed to pull their lives back together after the traumatic event.

She said Yellow Brick Road provided counselling for herself and her children and got her involved with others who had suffered similar losses.

“The Yellow Brick Road has personally helped me so much,” she said.

“I went to them because I couldn’t find anyone to counsel my young children. They did a programme with my kids and it was really beneficial for them.

“Following on from that, I did a waves programme there, so I got together with many other people who were hurting from losing someone to suicide, and we’re all still in touch.”

Bowman described Yellow Brick Road as a hidden treasure. And now she wants to do her part to make sure others who are suffering know about such organisations as Yellow Brick Road, as well as get them the recognition and financial support they deserve.

“I honestly didn’t know [Yellow Brick Road] existed before my husband died,” she said.

“I think if I had known back then, it would have been a place I could have gone to straight away to get support, but I had no idea.

“The amount of support they can give to people that have mental health issues is enormous. And it’s not just people that are grieving. It’s just so beneficial to our community because there are too many people here hurting and not knowing where to go.

“They do so much that we don’t see. This is about getting their name out there a bit. People need to know they exist.”

She has teamed up with Masterton’s Sacred Art Tattoo owner Sarah Tredray to raise funds in the name of mental awareness.

The pair are doing two separate fundraisers and will donate all the proceeds to Yellow Brick Road.

Don Luciano Cafe owner Marvin Guerrero will have his face tattooed on Ashleigh Bowman’s leg if she reaches her target of $5000. GRAPHIC/SUPPLIED

As an incentive to meet her target of $5000, Bowman will get a picture of Don Luciano cafe owner, and her boss, Marvin Guererro’s face tattooed on her leg.

When asked why a tattoo of her boss, Bowman said purely because of his presence in Wairarapa, and his support towards mental health awareness.

“He’s just so well known. Everybody seems to know him around here, so I thought it’d be funny.”

And that’s exactly how he reacted.

“He just laughed at me and said ‘are you serious’?”

“But he’s been real supportive of me through the things I’ve gone through. He came from Honduras and he’s seen mental health in a different way over there, and then he came here and saw how badly it’s affecting New Zealand. He’s a big fan of supporting anything to do with mental health.

“At the end of the day, it was Sarah’s idea,” said Bowman.

Tredray said her studio has a raffle running that has come with many donations from businesses.

There were three separate prize packs up for grabs, with each one including a voucher for a $250 tattoo.

Each ticket cost five dollars and would be drawn at the end of Mental Awareness Week in early October.

Tredray said she also felt compelled to help out because she has seen her fair share of mental health issues in her own life and within her staff.

“It’s something that affected me personally but also a lot of my staff kind of align with their own mental health issues,” she said.

“One of the girls here has lost one of her best friends to suicide as well, so I feel like it’s a burden on myself to help in some way, especially with the younger generation.

“We’ve all felt those horrible feelings.”

Mental health advocate Mike King. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

The pair’s cause has even found support from well-known comedian and mental health advocate Mike King.

“We support all efforts to make it easier for New Zealanders, and especially our rangatahi, to gain access to mental health services in an efficient and timely manner,” he said.

“Working at the coal face of our country’s mental health crisis, we know better than anybody that our mental health system is so broken, it could use all the help it can get. As always the case, Kiwis are stepping up to help each other when the system can’t.”

Both Bowman and Tredray said mental health across the board needed more attention, not just with people suffering but also with more support workers.

“I don’t think there’s enough support for people struggling with mental health and I don’t think there’s enough support workers to help,” Tredray said.

“There’s all these people wanting help and there are very few people who can help them, and that’s where we’re going horribly wrong,” Bowman said.

“We’re failing in that aspect as well as supporting the ones who are trying to help people with mental health issues.

“It’s time for a change, and we’re going to do our part to see that happen.”

If you want to donate towards Ashleigh’s fundraiser or get a raffle ticket, go to the Sacred Art Tattoo Facebook page or instore at Sacred Art Tattoo on Queen St, or Don Luciano Cafe on King St. There, you will also find collection boxes and QR codes that also link to Ashleigh’s Givealittle page.

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