“It’s really hard to say goodbye, but I do think it’s time to go.”
Sandra McDonald has been a driving force behind mental health support in Macarthur for nearly 20 years.
Now, Mrs McDonald and her husband Rick are ready to say farewell to the local area.
The McDonalds will leave their Long Point home in the coming weeks for a sea change to Nelsons Bay.
The couple has been part of the Macarthur community for nearly 40 years, and ran a local commercial pottery business for almost two decades.
Mrs McDonald has been advocating for local mental health patients since 2000.
She discovered there wasn’t enough mental health support in Macarthur after her son was diagnosed with a mental illness.
“I didn’t know anything about mental health and it was hard to get medical support,” she said.
“I decided to get myself educated and support him.”
Mrs McDonald said mental health facilities were under-resourced at the time.
“No one was saying anything about it, no one was advocating for change,” she said.
“I spoke up because I found that to be unfair.”
Mrs McDonald found some allies and began rallying for a mental health recovery centre in south-west Sydney.
With support from One Door Mental Health, that dream soon became a reality.
Mrs McDonald founded the Beautiful Minds charity group in Macarthur in 2004.
Beautiful Minds has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for mental health resources in the past 14 years.
There are now four in-patient mental health units in Macarthur which cater for people of all ages.
Mrs McDonald said the group had made some “extraordinary changes”.
“When we started there was such a stigma around mental health, I wondered if we could get support,” she said.
“The support has been very positive. From little things can come big change.
“I love the generosity of the Macarthur community and their willingness to support things that are difficult and challenging.”
Mrs McDonald said it was important to “normalise” the lives of patients in mental health units.
“The units are traditionally dark, dingy and have high walls,” she said.
“I always thought we needed to show that the community cares.”
I love the generosity of the Macarthur community and their willingness to support things that are difficult and challenging.Beautiful Minds founder Sandra McDonald
Mrs McDonald said one in four people had experienced a form of mental illness.
“It is more prevalent than cancer, so why are we not talking about it,” she said.
“It doesn’t have to be a lifelong battle, it can just be a bump in the road.
“You can still have an illness and be the best you can be with what you’ve been given.”
Mrs McDonald said she was proud to be an advocate for mental health.
“When things are unfair, I don’t like complaining – I would rather do something about it,” she said.
“What’s the point in complaining?”