Talk when the going gets tough

Tim EdmundsAlbany Advertiser
Chris Harris from Youth Focus chats to participants.
Camera IconChris Harris from Youth Focus chats to participants. Credit: Youth Focus

Young men, commonly known as the most reluctant to speak out and reach for support to address their mental health issues, are set to be part of the solution in Albany.

Reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and the unacceptable toll of suicide was the focus of the Albany Young Men’s Project, which recruited young men to start the conversation last Saturday.

Through Youth Focus, headspace, Palmerston Association and the City of Albany, 21 men aged between 16 and 24 worked to create solutions to prevent the biggest killer of young Australians — suicide.

Youth Focus services, development and innovation senior manager Chris Harris said the openness displayed in the room by the participants, who all brought some personal experience with suicide, would lead change in the community.

Mr Harris, who attended the workshop, said the group would now take their ideas to the City of Albany to increase community awareness and “bring about change”.

“I think when you have a look at it and the rate of mental health (problems) across Australia, we all have a relationship with somebody who has been struggling with a mental health issue whether that be anxiety, depression or thoughts of suicide,” Mr Harris said.

“These guys have the courage to come and share some of that.

“What the day does, it allows them to talk about it in such a manner without any stigma or discrimination that you can then move towards a solution.

“In the Great Southern over the past six to 12 months there has been a number of community members who have taken their own life and this is about the community standing up and saying this is not OK, we need to do something about this.”

Mr Harris said the men came from “all walks of life” and left the workshop with increased awareness of the factors which stop their mates, family and peers from looking for help.

He said the men also acknowledged the need to speak to their parents and friends if they were doing it tough.

“You have these 21 guys who are now champions and what we want to see is these guys go out into the community which will be the next step and what do we do with the idea and actually make it happen.

“Suicide is the leading cause of preventable death which means we have to work towards preventing it.

“It’s not OK that our family, friends and community members are taking their life as the preferred option.”

Headspace Albany manager Andrew Wenzel said most of the young men who attended spoke about their mental health issues for the first time.

He said some friends who attended the workshop together did not know the other had been through a tough time.

“No one actually talked about it being daunting,” he said.

“All of the guys felt supported to be able to talk about what they had been through.”

headspace Albany Men’s Mental Health messages:

  • If you are going through a tough time with feelings of depression or anxiety, it’s important you know that you are not alone, and there is help available. This help works, if you stick with it.
  • Admitting that you are going through a tough time, and need help to get through takes strength and courage. It isn’t a sign of weakness.
  • If you’re worried about a mate or family member who might be struggling, let them know you’re worried about them and ask if there’s anything you can do to help. Stick with it until they are ready to talk.
  • Men talk better when they are doing something together, so go fishing, go for a drive, surf, skateboard, kick a footy ... anything.
  • If a mate tells you they are struggling, don’t judge them, or tell them to get over it. Listening is enough.
  • Encourage a mate who is doing it tough to speak to a family member, teacher, their GP or a support service such as headspace Albany or Youth Focus.

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