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31st January 2023

From police officer to mental health advocate

pg 4 and 5 MAtt Newlands award

Matt Newlands has used grit and a determination to overcome an array of challenges. The former police officer has  found a new path helping others and has recently won an award for his work in the mental health space.

Mental health advocate
Matt recently won the esteemed 2022 Lived Experience Worker award through the Mental Health Coalition of SA. He was recognised for his story of resilience and triumph after a lived experience of mental health challenges and recovery.


He is now a passionate advocate, counsellor and facilitator for MESHA’s mental health programs to help military and emergency services personnel, but just a few years earlier Matt had been battling a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress, a marriage on the rocks and worse, thoughts of suicide.

A decade of policing
In 2006 aged 21, Matt fulfilled a lifelong dream of graduating from the police academy and loved his time on the beat, despite witnessing domestic violence, coroner’s matters involving suicide deaths, mental health incidents, fights in the street and pubs. But while he loved his job, the suicide death of a friend and colleague in 2013 began to affect his mental health.

By January 2015, Matt knew he wasn’t well – broken sleep and a heavy reliance on alcohol were the red flags sending him to seek medical help. He kept his mental health struggles with PTSD a secret from SAPOL and struggled to engage with professional help for fear of losing his career and identity.
His depression led to a ‘foolish decision’ of keeping a confiscated item, which saw him arrested and sacked by SAPOL in 2016. The loss of his identity as a police officer only exacerbated his depression and led to those dark thoughts of suicide.

Hope in the darkness
However, with the support of a psychologist and his loving family and mates by his side, Matt found his way out of the darkness and turned his life around.
He also enrolled in MESHA “GEARS” program which had an enormous impact, and led to him volunteering his time as a trainee facilitator.

Now, Matt is MESHA’s valued Lived Experience Stakeholder Engagement Manager and Program Manager, helping military and emergency services members deal with the challenges from their service, their relationships and transition into civilian life through GEARS and the StoryRight and MindRight programs.

He is also a fully-trained counsellor and delivers Mental Health First Aid training to workplaces to teach people the skills needed to identify and support someone with a mental health challenge.

Congratulations Matt for the work you do.

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