A woman who has faced mental health challenges for most of her adult life has been recognised as the 2022 Cootamundra Electorate Woman of the Year for her outstanding work in suicide prevention.
Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network (MPHN) employee and Young resident Seryn Adams said her lived experience charted her calling into the mental health arena, where she now works as the MPHN’s suicide prevention project officer.
She said it felt like an understatement to say she was honoured to receive the recognition at the NSW Women of the Year Awards breakfast, held at the International Convention Centre, Sydney on 9 March.
“I find it funny when we are recognised for the work we do, our first instinct is to think we don’t deserve it, there are other people doing bigger, better and more significant things,” Ms Adams said.
The state government introduced the annual Local Woman of the Year Awards to recognise and celebrate the support women give to their local communities across NSW.
Recipients are chosen by the state MP in each electorate in NSW.
Ms Adams moved to Young from her childhood home in Sydney’s Hawkesbury region five years ago because, she says, she always felt she was a country girl at heart.
“Moving out here also enabled me to follow my passion in mental health and suicide prevention,” she said.
Working across the widespread MPHN area which covers some 514 towns located in the South West Slopes, Riverina, Border and Western regions of NSW, Seryn implements a range of projects, initiatives, training and activities in the area of suicide prevention and mental health.
She is also part of the Murrumbidgee Local Response Group who engage with people and support communities impacted by loss or critical events.
Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke said she had had the pleasure of working closely with Ms Adams for many years, most recently at 13 mental health information nights the MP hosted around the electorate in 2021.
“I know first-hand how much of an impact she makes,” Ms Cooke said.
“She does an amazing job speaking to the community on an incredibly sensitive topic, breaking through the stigma and making that sure everyone feels safe and comfortable while having these tough conversations.”
She said Ms Adams’ tireless passion for mental health in her role at the MPHN provided much-appreciated support to those in need, “where she has also been a pioneer in the development of various mental health resources”.
Ms Adams said the acknowledgement from Ms Cooke, someone she also admired, inspired her to continue advocating for positive change, speaking out and stepping up for those who experience mental ill-health and suicidality.
“When people are going through a difficult time – especially when they are feeling despair or suicidal – it can be difficult to find support and feel like there is no one there, but there are services and there is support,” she said.
“As someone diagnosed with depression aged 19 [who has] managed suicidal ideations for most of their adult life, I encourage anyone who may be struggling, to never stop seeking help, connect with people you trust and always harness the power of hope.”
Ms Adams also paid tribute to her mentors.
“The support of these people and the confidence they have shown in me allows me to do what I do, to continue showing up and bringing ideas to the table,” she said.
She extended her thanks to MPHN CEO Melissa Neal and her manager, Anita McRae, for allowing her to turn her passion for suicide prevention into a career.
“Working with incredible colleagues to support our many communities across the Murrumbidgee gives me a great sense of purpose,” Ms Adams said.
MPHN CEO Melissa Neal congratulated Ms Adams, saying the award was a “testament to her passion”, fitting acknowledgement of her work supporting mental health and suicide prevention across the Murrumbidgee region and something the organisation was “very proud of”.
For everyday community members looking for suitable mental health and suicide prevention training, Ms Adams has suggested the following:
- MapMyRecovery: local online service directory, which also includes great links to national support and online resources.
- QPR Online: One hour, online suicide prevention training, free to residents in the Murrumbidgee.
If you or someone you know needs support, contact Murrumbidgee AccessLine on 1800 800 944; NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511; Lifeline on 13 11 14 or; call 000 in an emergency.