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The Sam Project mental health expedition truck heads to Canberra

Scott and Florence Harrod
Scott and Florence Harrod are on a mission to educate people about mental illness.

ABC Radio Canberra: Clarissa Thorpe

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Scott and Florence Harrod have sold everything they had, including the family farm, and are undertaking a big-hearted journey around Australia.

The Harrods are crossing the country aboard an expedition truck named Sam seeking to raise public understanding of mental health issues.

They have already clocked up 28,000 kilometres over eight months.

With a focus on people living in rural and regional Australia, the so-called Sam Project is designed to deliver mental health awareness sessions for community groups.

The expedition truck is also a mobile drop-in cafe.

The SAM Project coffee trailer
Scott and Florence Harrod serve hot drinks from the SAM Project coffee trailer.

ABC Radio Canberra: Clarissa Thorpe

Mr Harrod told ABC Radio Canberra's Dan Bouchier many people they had met along their journey had jumped at the chance to "stop by for a coffee and have a chat about mental health issues".

"We don't solicit the conversation, the people just come and talk to us and really we just provide the opportunity.

"At one petrol station, this gentleman in remote Queensland had this long conversation ... and he just kept on talking and then he just broke down.

"Once he composed himself, he said, 'I've never told anyone that I've been suffering from depression and in fact, I'm now going to go home and tell my wife'.

"Talking to us breaks that initial barrier to get them talking to other people."

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Black Dog ambassadors

With one in five Australians experiencing mental illness each year, Mr Harrod said he was constantly surprised by the absence of knowledge around mental health issues in the communities they had visited.

"We really should know so much more about it, and the more we know about it, the easier it is to understand and relate to other people and remove that stigma."

As ambassadors of the Black Dog Institute, the Harrods hope they can give hope to people who are suffering with mental illness.

"In our lives if it's not us, it'll be someone close to us who is suffering," Mr Harrod said.

The Sam Project will be visiting Canberra at the end of February and has invited community groups to make contact should they wish to arrange an education session.