Long-time surfboard illustrator Terry Cooper has been using art as "therapy and a weapon" since incurring a debilitating workplace injury in 2010 that spiralled into depression.
"Being old-school you think when you hurt yourself, you give it a week or so and you'll be right," the 66-year-old said. "Some months passed and I was not right ... I was not in a good place."
After discovering a paintbrush helped him process a web of tangled emotions, he took it upon himself to help 40 others "have a voice" through an upcoming exhibition in Wollongong.
The show at Project Contemporary Artspace is called Two Trees Talking, and is inspired by a meditation exercise a psychologist gave Mr Cooper when writing a diary became too "toxic".
It began as a dual exhibition last year, and led to dozens more wanting to be part of the second exhibition. He couldn't help but give them all a hand.
"We live in a crazy world these days where people forget about helping each other," he said.
"When people reach out, you reach back and you don't ignore them, and this is a really important message ... these are real people not statistics, and they've reached out and I've reached back."
University of Wollongong art student Georgia Green, 18, has been battling her own demons since suffering trauma when she was younger.
Earlier this year Miss Green was admitted to South Coast Private Mental Health Hospital. She was granted four hours' leave each day and chose to spend that time in Mr Cooper's Corrimal workshop, creating 60 prints for the exhibition.
Miss Green said art had allowed her to expel the abstract thoughts that words could not always express, and the exhibition had helped her through some of her darkest days.
"It would be really inspiring for others to see the positives that have come out of [difficult situations]," she said.
"It would mean the world to us to be able to reach a broader audience in order to share our art and the stories behind it via a larger platform."
Two Trees Talking supports Mental Health Month, and is on exhibition at Wollongong's Project Contemporary Artspace from October 2-10.
If you or someone you know needs to talk someone, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
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