WHAT was once a tight-knit community is slowly becoming a competition to see who can get the most "f***** up", says a patron of last weekend's Omega Festival at Newton Boyd.
Joshua Halverson, a regular attendee of bush doofs, was among those partying at the private property on Blacksmith Shop Rd as news of the death of Green Pigeon man David Gallagher from a suspected drug overdose trickled through the 2000-plus crowd on Sunday afternoon.
Mr Gallagher's body was discovered by friends in a vehicle less than 200m from the main dance stage, and police said it appeared he had already been dead for some time.
While he had only met the 24-year-old once or twice, Mr Halverson said he was devastated by the young man's death and saddened by the indifference and lack of sensitivity shown by others.
"I saw a lot of people deeply affected, although I don't think a lot of people knew straight away either," he said.
"I was deeply devastated and left as soon as I felt it was safe to do so. Others kept partying; some thought that this was a better send off to someone who would have been dancing had he not succumbed to the grip of death in his own car.
"Some probably didn't care, but unfortunately there is always going to be those who don't care in every walk of life."
He also disagreed with the organisers' decision to disregard police pleas to shut the event down, saying that while shutting it down immediately would have caused chaos, the party should have ended on Sunday night as a sign of respect for Mr Gallagher, who was well-known by many in the doof scene.
"If they had finished the music Sunday night everyone could have had time to rest and recover in order to leave the next day, (but) instead the party kept going into the late hours of Monday, which I found to be a bit over the top," he said.
"We are all a beautiful interconnected, extended family and we should have taken the time to pay tribute to a key member of this scene. It was horrible to think that someone died alone while many of his friends didn't even know where he was. It should be a major lesson to everyone that we need to be closer, regardless of whether we 'know someone'. We should still care."
Mr Halverson said there seemed to be a "loss of clarity" among the people attending these sort of events, with stories of intoxication and subsequent injuries becoming a "bragging right".
He told The Daily Examiner there had been numerous occasions where the people he loved were too intoxicated to recognise either him or their surroundings.
"It seems to me lately that everyone is interested in getting "f***** up", rather than try to expand their minds," he said.
"There's a race to the top, so to speak, as punters try to prove that they can take the most substances and get the most f***** up.
"Compassion is being lost as people fall into deep holes of despair which are related to neglect and not listening to the warning signs that the body shows."
Mr Halverson said he believed more education and progress in the mental health sector would be key to finding a solution, as drug use often provided an escape for those struggling to cope.
"I think mental health awareness is lacking and so a lot of people are told to 'toughen up', rather than seeking actual help," he said. "Communication is so important and I think it needs to increase. It takes five minutes to listen to someone's pain. It takes two seconds to save a life. Even a hug can save someone's life."
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