A Boyup Brook woman at the forefront of changing the stigma around mental health in the region has been hand picked as a finalist as part of a leading Statewide award. Boyup Brook District High School deputy principal Renee Knapp has been nominated for an Awards Australia WA Community Achievement Award for her work with mental health action in communities and schools. Ms Knapp, who has been nominated in the Local Legend category, works with her own consultancy along with a community mental health action team to help the lower South West develop approaches towards wellbeing. She said her role as deputy principal had been a large motivation for her approaches to education-based approaches. “My eyes were opened to the gaps in the education system and I could see mental health becoming a priority,” she said. “We could always see kids who desperately needed support and we wanted to fill the gaps of support services.” Ms Knapp said setting up the mental health action team had been effective to the communities she and her team had worked with, especially with allowing law enforcement, medical practitioners and other community groups to become involved. “What I found is that the approach we developed... is getting different sectors to work together to improve mental health,” she said. The basis of the approaches the Community Mental Health Action Team have made have also intended to be adaptable to any community and any issues or challenges they may face related to mental health. Ms Knapp says there had been demand for the mental health action plans created by the team all over WA, including Geraldton, Exmouth and Denmark. “We have done stuff with the Blackwood Youth Action group and we have looked into doing a grant with Denmark, who have a similar passion,” she said. Ms Knapp said she felt honoured by her nomination for the Local Legend Award. “I don’t ever think what I do is considered legendary, I believe it is just critical,” she said. She also encouraged people to take action and become more involved. “We need to stop sitting and waiting for the change, we need to drive that,” she said. Also nominated from the region is Nannup Shire worker Nicole Botica, who is a finalist in the Regional Safety Award for her Living With Emus program, which saw a sculpture of an emu made out of road signs. The project, created by Nannup artist Lewis Horne and headed by Ms Botica, aimed to deliver messages on road safety awareness and preventing accidents on regional roads, more specifically involving wildlife. Ms Botica said the project is strong in its message and unique in its ability to share the project’s intention with the broader community. “The project is a great example of a community art project encompassing a serious issue,” she said. “Road trauma and the risk of wildlife fatalities on our regional roads is a reality for the Nannup community and the region.” Not-for-profit Blackwood Youth Action has also been nominated for the Community Group of the Year award for its work with youth across the region.