The St.LukesHealth Healthier Communities Award has gone to 23-year-old Hobart resident Matthew Etherington for his efforts in assisting the disabled and disadvantaged in his community.
The award was presented at the Tasmanian Young Achiever of the Year Awards. Mr Etherington was also awarded the Premier’s Young Achiever of the Year at the same ceremony.
"It was his selfless dedication to others and yearning to break down the stigma of mental health that stuck out for those judging the awards this year," said St.LukesHealth in a statement.
"Matt was instrumental in facilitating the Big Issues Community Street Soccer Program in Southern Tasmania, using sport to empower and improve the lives of those in the community.
"He also organised a Mental Health First Aid initiative at the University of Tasmania where more than 330 individuals learnt the importance of self-care to promote positive mental health."
"The work and advocacy I've been a part of focuses on mental health, disability support, social inclusion and youth engagement," said Mr Etherington.
"I want to break down the stigma and fear about mental health and provide people with the skills to overcome barriers to connectedness and social support, both for themselves and for others."
He continued, "My life and many of the plans I had made for the future changed dramatically. I felt lost and was thinking about suicide.
"I liken it to a near-death experience, because being in such a dark place forced me to see the world differently and focus on what really matters to me.
"After seeking professional help, I decided to use those experiences to support other people going through transitions in health and those caring for them.
"Community work now brings me a great deal of purpose, happiness and belonging. I feel a deep connection to the many people, young and old, who want to make our community stronger, inclusive and more sustainable and that's what keeps me involved."