In 2012 youth suicide and depression prevention organisation, Youth Focus, and then CEO Jenny Allen, formed a working group to address critically high rates of suicide and depression amongst young men. Suicide was recognised as the major cause of death in the 15-25 year old age group with men accounting for 70% of all suicides in Australia.
The group drew together representatives from Youth Focus; Orygen; the Black Dog Institute; reachout.com; the Telethon Kids Institute; The West Australian Newspaper; advertising agency Meerkats; the West Coast Eagles as well as general medical practitioners and parents. In 2014 the group approached Lotterywest with innovative plans to embark on a two year ‘young men’s mental health project’, with the aim of developing new community messaging techniques to research, explore and address the barriers to young men accessing mental health support services.
A project grant of $775,000 was approved to cover costs such as salaries, psychometrics, documentation, production costs, and honorarium for participants.
Chris Harris of Youth Focus reflected on the incredible successes of the project to date, which had three ‘sub-projects’.
- Removing the barriers to access help
- Six 15 minute mental health sessions trialled with 30 AFL football players aged 17-31
- Developing a communication strategy to share the projects findings and successes
“In an 18 month period, we saw a fivefold increase in young men who accessed services such as psychologists, to receive support predominantly around depression and anxiety.”
An online portal, The Lighthouse Project was also developed, with a complete toolkit that guides people through how to come up with mental health solutions. The ‘Lighthouse’ is a tattoo, real or temporary which will also be developed into stickers, a clothing emblem, and potentially imbedded in online games.
“It marks you out as someone willing to have the hard conversations to save a mate’s life” says Chris. “The number of young men who have got on board with this is absolutely remarkable. They’ve put up their hand and made this happen. That for me is the success of it; the degree of investment of the young men themselves. If we can trust in young people to help find solutions to mental health, they will come up with them. That’s the most rewarding aspect.”