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.
Another run of courses is coming up in the New England North West, and 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".
"The simple statistics are that the sooner someone gets help, the better the outcomes are - and, if you're brave enough to intervene early, that person is going to have a much simpler treatment trajectory."
Mrs Green is based in Tamworth and also works as a mental health counsellor part-time.
Among her upcoming workshops are mental health first aid courses and refreshers in Tamworth and Armidale; one in Quirindi catering especially for drought-affected communities; and courses for people who work with youths, and for dealing with non-suicidal self-injury or self-harm, both in Tamworth.
Courses can cover illnesses 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."
One of the other most important factors was being aware of where a person could then tap into professional, ongoing help.
"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."