Suicide statistics a “call to action”

September 27th, 2017

New statistics have revealed a drop in the number of suicide-related deaths across Australia, but Youth Focus says more investment and awareness is needed to save young lives.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics report, Causes of Death data 2016, released this morning, shows that 2866 people died from intentional self-harm in Australia, compared to 3027 the previous year.

In WA, 371 people died as a result of suicide last year, compared to 394 in 2015. This included 54 young people aged between 15 and 24, slightly down from 55 the previous year.

While all states and territories, except Tasmania, reported a drop in the number of suicide deaths between 2015 and 2016, suicide was the leading cause of death of children aged between five and 17, and accounted for more than a third of deaths of young people aged between 15 and 24.

Youth Focus General Manager of Community Engagement Chris Harris said the rate of youth suicide had reached crisis point and today’s ABS statistics were a “call to action”.

“This data indicates that the rate of suicide, which is the most preventable cause of death in young people, is not acceptable. It is not OK that any young person believes that ending their life is a preferred choice,” Mr Harris said.

“We are seeing more investment in suicide prevention than ever before, yet these statistics are still unacceptably high.”

The ABS data shows suicide deaths accounted for a greater proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths (5.5%), compared to non-indigenous Australians (1.7%).

“Sadly, the data reflects high rates of suicide for the traditional owners of our country. It is imperative that we work collaboratively with Aboriginal communities to find the right solutions to changing this in the coming years.”

Mr Harris said experts were optimistic and hopeful that the high number of young people taking their own lives could be arrested.

“To reverse these numbers we have to work together as a community. It is a social responsibility to ensure that young people receive the support they need at the earliest opportunity and preferably before they need specialist mental health services,” he said.

Mr Harris said more and more young people were doing it tough.

“What we need to do, going forward, is reassure young people that when they let somebody know that they are struggling, those people around them feel confident, willing and able to respond to that distress at the earliest possible time,” he said.

“Youth Focus is committed to working in partnership with other agencies, both locally and nationally, to invest in the lives of young people. We believe we can help turn the tide on this massive social problem, but improving the mental health of young people starts at a community level.

“It is naive to think that providing more resources for the young person alone is the answer. We need to support those around them – the families, the schools, the communities – to make a difference.

“We need to wake up to the fact that intervention needs to occur much earlier. That’s not necessarily about getting young people to mental health services, but engaging people in their circle – family, friends, sports groups, schools – so they know what to say and how to respond much earlier.”

For more information visit: 

If you or someone you know needs urgent support please contact the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467, the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.



Nicole Cox – 0419 941 443


Learn more about mental health advocate and Youth Reference Group member, Lily

August 28th, 2017

1. Why did you become involved in the Youth Reference Group?
I was forwarded an email regarding the Youth Reference Group at a time when I was recuperating from the mental stress of year 12. It was something I not only wanted to do to contribute in helping young people cope with difficult times, but also for helping myself become more involved in a community program and being a part of a bigger picture. Joining the Youth Reference Group seemed to be a good way to get involved and start to make a difference.

2. What’s the best thing about being a member of the Youth Reference Group?
I love being able to contribute and plan events. So far, I have helped organised the SuperheroYOUth festival. Being able to put forth my ideas and know that I have actively contributed to create something fantastic for young people is a great feeling.

3. Where do you see Youth Focus in five years?
I’d love to see a more collaborative community-focused side. It would be great to enhance community engagement and get people talking about ways to cope and push through mental struggles. I think there’s already such great work done to remove the barrier of talking about mental struggles, but it would be great if actual coping mechanisms and counselling techniques that help people heal as part of a community, or alone, could be more common knowledge and more widely taught.

Seeking young Ellenbrook men for mental health workshop

August 17th, 2017

Young men aged 18 to 25 who live in Ellenbrook have the opportunity to explore the issues surrounding suicide and mental health at a workshop on Saturday, September 9.

Each participant will be given a $100 voucher to attend the Young Men’s Project workshop which will be held from 10am at the Coolamon Oval Pavilion, Bonney Lane, Ellenbrook.

The five hour workshop includes lunch.

The workshop is being organised through Youth Focus, which oversees the Young Men’s Project, in collaboration with the City of Swan. Young men must register to attend through the City of Swan.

Youth Focus CEO Fiona Kalaf said suicide was still the biggest killer of young Australian men.

“Suicide kills more young men than car accidents and the number has been getting higher over the past 10 years,” Ms Kalaf said.

“One suicide affects hundreds of people with an impact that devastates whole communities.

“Therefore, it is critical that young men come together to help us understand their unique issues and how we can implement meaningful programs and services in the local environment.”

Youth Focus is a for purpose Western Australian organisation that works to prevent suicide and assist young people aged 12-25 with issues related to anxiety, depression and self-harm.

The Young Men’s Project workshop will examine issues that directly relate to living in Ellenbrook.

It will highlight how young men cope with various challenges, the type of services they are trying to access and whether they are getting the right help they really need.

For example, the young men might talk about employment barriers or the pressures of being a young father, or not being able to access free counselling in a timely manner.

Ultimately, it is hoped that with the help of the workshop participants, the City of Swan can develop and implement relevant mental health projects that benefit the local community.

Importantly, these conversations will assist in reducing the stigma around mental health and promote further discussions.

For more information, please visit:

To register your interest, please email:



Media contact:

Gemma Scheibling

0434 055 877

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