The annual Breaking Free concert, which aims to break down the barriers surrounding mental illness, will this year feature a special guest speaker – former professional rugby league player and host of Fox Sports NRL 360 program Ben Ikin.

Mr Ikin will speak at the event this Friday, October 7, at the Toowoomba City Golf Club to urge everyone to break free from the stigma of mental illness, and to celebrate the positives of mental health. Also joining him will be local media personality from Triple M and Channel 9 Brisbane, Ben Dobbin, who will be running a Q&A session with Mr Ikin.

The Breaking Free Concert was founded 14 years ago by Toowoomba Mental Health Service Consumer Consultant Michael Burge. Mr Burge said Breaking Free had become an inspirational event with entertainers and speakers talking honestly and openly about mental illness.

“I’m proud that this is the 15th anniversary of the event and am delighted that the Toowoomba community has embraced Breaking Free as a special forum for people from all walks of life,” Mr Burge said.

“When I started the breaking free concert, I wanted to organise something that focused on the positives of what consumers can do and not the negative aspects of having a mental illness. I wanted people to come away from the event with a sense of hope for the future and I think in the last 14 years we have delivered on this.”

The theme for this year’s concert is  ‘Who would you like to be?’. Guests are encouraged to dress up and dance to the night-long entertainment, which will feature a variety of musicians including Cherie Superstar, Denise Kimber and Band, and the Rainbow Choir, as well as belly dancing, tribal drumming, Flash Dance activity, fancy dress, and more. This year’s concert will also feature a display and presentation about the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Sponsors of this year’s event, Toowoomba Hospital Foundation chief executive officer Alison Kennedy said the Breakfree Concert was a fantastic community event for all to get involved with. “This is a fantastic opportunity for families, friends and colleagues to get together, have a great time, all while raising awareness for positive mental health,” Mrs Kennedy said. “It is nice to see that funds from the concert will go directly to mental health in Toowoomba which will make a significant difference to those affected by mental illness in our region.”

Breaking Free is a free event, however bookings are essential. If you are interested in attending, please phone Michael Burge on 0447 642 592.

Words by Catherine Sherwood
Image from Rugby League Week