On the Blog: Stigma and Isolation in Rural Communities

July 24th, 2017

An opinion piece written by Tye Gerrard, member of the Youth Focus Youth Reference Group

Spending the majority of my formative years growing up in rural Queensland, I had first hand exposure to the hardships experienced in these communities. In particular, periods of drought as well as low socioeconomic circumstance affecting many families. To this extent, I watched as friends and family struggled with maintaining good mental health.

In my opinion, the key driver of these underlying issues most noticeable throughout my youth was an ideology that hardship must always be answered with strength. That periods of extreme drought or bushfires must be answered with bravery and any show of emotion or open discussion about hardship embodied weakness. As stigmas prevented those who needed help the most seeking it in my small town, it was heartbreaking to witness the widespread effects of poor mental health on the community, impacting life at home and school for many of my friends.

Whilst change is occurring, rural and remote communities are still suffering with the latest Royal Flying Doctor Service Mental Health Report showing that these communities on average have double the rate of suicide, yet only access mental health services at a fifth of the rate.1 The research found that farmers along with Indigenous Australians are among the most at risk of suicide.

With hindsight, I often wonder how different the lives of those around me would have been if a similar service that Youth Focus provides in Western Australia, or if a tool such as Mental Health First Aid was available at the time. It was these experiences that embodied for me the importance of the work undertaken at Youth Focus, the engagement strategies with not only those in the metropolitan area – but utilising tools such as the Hawaiian Ride for Youth to reach a wider audience. Programs such as the Mental Health First Aid not only provide support strategies, but stimulate conversation, letting people know that it is okay, not to be okay.

Peer Support attends Cirque du Soleil!

July 12th, 2017

Earlier this year, 14 Youth Focus clients were fortunate enough to attend the latest Cirque du Soleil show, Kooza! After getting to know each other during dinner, the group travelled to Belmont Race Course where they were impressed by the big top, incredible acrobatics, clowning, and artistic performances that adorned the stage. There were many gasps, as well as a lot of laughter and excitement throughout the show, with resoundingly positive feedback from the group afterwards.

Thanks to Cirque du Soleil for supporting local organisations like Youth Focus, and enabling young clients to attend high profile events, such as Kooza.














Mr David Gray appointed as Chair of the Board of Youth Focus

June 30th, 2017

Mr David Gray has been appointed Chair of the Board of Youth Focus.

Mr Gray, partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, who has been a Board Director since 2008, replaces Mr Peter Harold who stepped down from the Board on June 30.

Mr Harold, who is the Managing Director of Panoramic Resources Limited, was a Youth Focus Board Director for nine years, including the last five years as Chair.

Youth Focus is a leading Western Australian organisation that aims to reduce youth suicide by lowering depression, anxiety and self-harm in 12 to 25-year-olds.

Mr Gray said he was honoured to have been appointed Chair.

“My time at Youth Focus has emphasised to me the critical nature of our mission and how we are working to make a real difference. I look forward to working with the Board and all at Youth Focus to continue to advance our important role in the community. I would also like to offer our sincere thanks to Peter who has overseen a significant period of growth and evolution for Youth Focus,” Mr Gray said.

“When Peter started as a Director, Youth Focus was seeing more than 800 young people and their families, had more than 30 staff and was raising more than $600,000 through its major fundraiser and iconic cycling event, the Hawaiian Ride for Youth.

“Today, Youth Focus cares for 2,500 young people and their families, has nearly 100 staff. has expanded its offices, services and programs and is the lead agency for headspace Centres in Geraldton, Albany and Midland.

“And this year the Hawaiian Ride for Youth raised a record-breaking $2.5 million.”
















Under the spotlight: Youth Reference Group member, Clancy

June 22nd, 2017

Learn more about Clancy, and why she loves being a part of the Youth Focus Youth Reference Group (YRG).

1. Why did you become involved in the Youth Focus Group?
I became involved in the YRG because I increasingly saw young people around me being affected by mental illness. I wanted to play a part in ensuring that mental health services that are available are tailored to the needs of young people.

2. What’s the best thing about being a member of the Youth Reference Group?
Being part of the YRG is an amazing opportunity to interact with like-minded individuals who want to work together to make the young Western Australians feel valued and supported. I also really enjoy being able to have a tangible impact on the Youth Focus direction, and feel very honoured to represent the youth of our society.

3. Where do you see Youth Focus in five years?
In five years, I hope that Youth Focus immediately comes to mind for young people during difficult times. With the help of the YRG, I want to see more youth-friendly events ensuring that young people are exposed to the great work that Youth Focus does.

Managing mental wellbeing in a technology-driven world

June 22nd, 2017

For young people, behaviours and risks in the online world appear to be mirrored offline. While new technologies are offering new platforms for adolescents to interact with each other, online behaviours can often be predicted by offline behaviours and characteristics. This means that the effects of technology on adolescent development differ between individuals. For example, adolescents with strong relationships exhibit enhanced relationship quality when virtual interactions are also present, while for adolescents who are struggling within existing relationships, high levels of technology use predict lower wellbeing and relationship quality.

Apart from the risks associated with cyberbullying, sexting, or online predatory behaviour, which can also be related to offline vulnerabilities, a young person’s mobile phone use that is interfering with their ability to engage in what they are supposed to be doing either at school, work or home, is a sign of problematic use and requires attention. If the quality of the parent-child relationship is strong offline, the easier it will be to discuss and implement strategies to confer benefits for the young person’s online experiences.

Here’s five simple strategies that parents and guardians can use to manage mobile phone use:

– Establish rules, such as when it’s okay to take calls or reply to texts, and when the phone should be on silent or switched off

– Encourage responsible phone use by modelling it yourself

– Ensure you and your child understand their school’s policy on mobile phone use

– Talk to your child about limiting who should have their phone number

– Reassure your child that you won’t take away their phone if they report something worrying to you

Alcoa of Australia continues to support young people in the Peel region

June 22nd, 2017
Alcoa of Australia is a premier partner of Youth Focus. Since 2011, Alcoa of Australia has enabled Youth Focus to care for hundreds of young people through schools and outreach centres in the Peel region.

Youth Focus and Alcoa of Australia recently entered into a two-year partnership to support the provision of face-to-face counselling for young people in the Peel region. This meaningful partnership will also support the delivery of the ground-breaking Young Men’s Project, as well as several Peel-based community mental health forums which aim to educate and engage the community on the topic of youth mental health.

With the support of corporate social responsibility leaders such as Alcoa of Australia, Youth Focus is able to provide the professional mental health services so desperately needed in regional areas.

For more information on corporate partnerships, please contact the Youth Focus Partnerships Manager here.

Young men with mental health concerns need their mates!

June 6th, 2017

One of Western’s Australia’s leading mental health service providers for 12 to 25 year olds, is appealing to the community to Mind Your Mates, especially young men.

Youth Focus CEO Fiona Kalaf said the organisation was successful in assisting young men with their mental health issues but taking the first step towards self-help was often the hardest.

“Men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women but they are less likely to reach out for help,” Ms Kalaf said.

“Many young men still feel there’s a stigma associated with mental health issues, are too embarrassed to talk to others and often just stick it out and hope their problems will disappear.”

Ms Kalaf was launching Youth Focus’s Mind Your Mates – an end of financial year campaign aimed at raising funds and awareness and to coincide with Men’s Health Week from June 12 to 18.

Mind Your Mates focuses on young men’s mental health and calls on male and female “mates” to support their male friends with mental health issues.

If you wish to donate, please go to www.youthfocus.com.au/mindyourmates or text MATE to 0437 371 371.

Ms Kalaf said that the 2015 Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed only 27 per cent of men sought help compared to 40 per cent of women.

“The confronting reality is that mental health problems rarely go away without intervention and can be magnified to the point where self-harm or, in some cases, suicide may occur,” she said.

“It is also particularly disturbing that of the 59 young lives lost to suicide in WA in 2015, the majority were males.”

Ms Kalaf said the participation rate for young men accessing Youth Focus’s free, professional counselling services had risen from 20 per cent in 2013 to 28 per cent in 2015, reflecting targeted efforts to work with more young men.

“This trend seems to have continued into the last six months of 2016 with 38 per cent of our clients in metropolitan schools being male, 33 percent in regional schools and young men making up nearly 30 per cent of clients attending our office locations,” she said.

“We believe some of this success can be attributed to our education and training work in schools through the Understanding Mental Health presentations to Year 9 students, where we are reducing stigma and empowering young people, especially males, to seek help for mental health issues.”

Ms Kalaf said that while this was encouraging, Youth Focus needed the help of the community – especially ‘mates’- to ensure that young people at risk received early intervention with their issues.

“We are urging friends and families to talk to young men about their mental health concerns as well as donating generously so that Youth Focus can continue to provide its life-changing services,” she said.

Youth Focus has an office in Burswood, Joondalup, Albany, Bunbury and Rockingham. It is also the lead agency for headspace centres in Albany, Midland and Geraldton.

Media contact: Kaye Hopkins 0448 882 893

In Focus: Youth Reference Group member, Georgia Anderson

May 29th, 2017

We recently asked Georgia about her involvement with the Youth Reference Group, and loved her responses so much that we just had to share.

Why did you become involved in the Youth Reference Group?

I became involved in the Youth Focus Youth Reference Group because I have a passion for mental health and want to be involved in any way I can to bring awareness to mental illness and break down the stigma surrounding it. A key area I am very passionate about is suicide prevention, and with the Youth Focus aim being to put a stop to youth suicide, I was very eager to be able to work with this organisation and give my input as a youth consumer.

What’s the best thing about being a member of the Youth Reference Group?

What isn’t great about being involved in the Youth Reference Group?! I’ve been a member of the YRG for almost two years now and through this opportunity I have gained leadership skills, confidence, more knowledge of the service and other mental health services, done lots of networking, planned events and so on. But I’d have to say the best thing is being around and having the support of everyone else in the group and Helen the coordinator, they’re such an amazing bunch of people who are so committed, passionate and eager to make a difference for young people out there struggling.

We all bounce ideas off one another and each one of us contributes something different to the group, we work really well together and I feel so privileged to be able to work alongside each and every one of the YRG members and Helen. They never fail to inspire me, I truly think we’ve created a strong group of individuals who have the opportunity and power to make a difference. Some days it feels like we could conquer the world – that’s probably a little far out of reach at the moment, but slowly and surely step-by-step we aim to put an end to youth suicide.

Where do you see Youth Focus in 5 years?

I envisage Youth Focus having the capacity to be able to provide more support to people in rural areas, having more offices around the Perth metropolitan area and a bigger team of staff with the ability to be able to support more young people. I can see them being able to provide workshops to more schools and being more widely known by young people as a caring, trustworthy service that can be accessed in times of struggle. I envisage us having an app with ideas for self-care, crisis resources, mood tracking, the ability to cancel or change an appointment, mindfulness and guided meditation videos and an individually developed crisis plan that can be added to or changed at any time. I also see Youth Focus hosting more events to promote good mental health.