Increasingly complex problems for youth with mental health issues

Young Western Australians with mental health issues are presenting with more complex problems, according to the Youth Focus Progress Report for 2015-16.

About 35 per cent of young people who were referred to Youth Focus during the year presented with moderate to severe mental health concerns representing an increase of five per cent from the previous year and 14 per cent compared to 2013-14.

The Progress Report was released by Youth Focus CEO Fiona Kalaf at the organisation’s annual Make a Difference Awards at Fraser’s in Kings Park on Wednesday, November 16. More than 150 people representing businesses, sponsors and supporters attended the awards.

“These clients tended to present with multiple issues and needs including severe symptoms of depression, anxiety and suicidal intent and behaviours within the previous three months,” Ms Kalaf said.

“Other issues included non-suicidal injury requiring recent medical attention; evidence of family/relational trauma, and/or significant impairment in the young person’s daily activities.

“The most common issues for which young people are referred to Youth Focus are depression, suicidal ideation, self-harm, anxiety, school stress and family conflict, with at least 60 percent reporting more than one of these significant mental health concerns.

“These young people naturally require greater time and resources from the clinical staff, including more case management work,” Ms Kalaf said.

Youth Focus is a for-purpose Western Australian organisation that provides free counselling sessions and aims help people aged 12 to 25 with mental health issues and prevent suicide.

The Progress Report showed that during 2015/16, the average age of clients was 17 years compared to 14 years in 2012.

It said the change reflected Youth Focus working with more 18-25 year olds and providing local offices where young people could be seen outside of a school environment.

“Youth Focus understands that the transition from school to work or further study can be a difficult time for young people and that the suicide rates have trended upwards in this age group,” Ms Kalaf said.

“The participation rate for young men has also risen from 20 per cent to 28 per cent over the past two years, reflecting targeted efforts to work more with young men who sadly, remain a high risk group for suicide.”

Ms Kalaf said that while Youth Focus had made great strides over the last year in reaching more young people with mental health issues, the organisation faced financial challenges in a difficult economic climate.

“During the year, Youth Focus revenues grew by 15 per cent to $11.5 million on the back of the rollout of the Geraldton headspace Centre and the taking on of the Albany headspace centre,” Ms Kalaf said.

“Despite a four per cent reduction in revenue from fundraising and events, these areas continued to perform strongly along with a significant revenue contribution from the State Government,” Ms Kalaf said.

“Expenditure grew by 14 per cent to $12.2 million, of which 82 per cent was spent on the delivery of core services to young people.”

To access the Progress Report please visit

Other highlights of the 2015-16 year included:

  • Service provision from five offices (Burswood, Albany, Bunbury, Rockingham and Joondalup) four satellite locations (Cockburn, Leederville, Ellenbrook and Mandurah) and 41 schools.
  • Service provision to approximately 1,300 youth and family clients, with an average of more than 450 active clients at any one time with 15 new referrals allocated each week.
  • Working with an additional 1,243 young people through the four headspace centres operated by Youth Focus in Albany, Geraldton and two in Midland.
  • Working closely with principals and student support services staff to provide nearly 40 per cent of counselling services ‘in-house’ at 41 metropolitan and regional high schools. This equated to 530 students across WA.
  • An expansion of services into the Wheatbelt, with a pilot trial of tele-counselling into high schools in Wagin, Northam and Narrogin.
  • Raising more than $4.49 million in revenue through fundraising, sponsorships, and donations including major fundraising events such as the Hawaiian Ride for Youth and the Night of Nights Ball driven by Audi with support from more than 70 organisations.

Winners of the 2016 Youth Focus Make a Difference Awards

Youth Award 

The award recognises a young person 25 years or younger who has made an outstanding voluntary commitment to benefit Youth Focus in the promotion of mental health. (Two winners were announced in this category).

Winner – Amy Gibb

“As part of her Year 10 curriculum at Presbyterian Ladies College, Amy showed great initiative and courage in hosting a fundraising event for Youth Focus. Students were asked to research and produce a product or service of interest to them and Amy went above all expectations hosting a charity dance. Raising $7,000, she not only helped to support young people in need but raised awareness of Youth Focus’ mission in combating youth suicide. Amy also hosted a stall as part of this project to continue the dialogue about Youth Focus and promote the message of positive mental health.”

Winner – Caitlin Crawford

“Caitlin has been involved with the Youth Focus Youth Reference Group since it started in June 2014. She has shown outstanding dedication, taking an active role in monthly meetings, and providing valuable feedback and ideas. Throughout the year, Caitlin was active in helping to organise the Youth Reference Group’s first ever community festival, Superhero Youth, for National Youth Week in April. And in May, Caitlin was one of two Group members to participate in the first annual YacPAK camp, a leadership and networking camp celebrating and upskilling young leaders and advocates like herself from various organisations and local governments.”


Employee Award

The award recognises a Youth Focus or headspace staff member who has gone above and beyond in their work to prevent youth suicide and to promote positive mental health.

Winner – Mica Lanzini – Senior Youth Counsellor in the Albany office.

“Mica joined the Albany office in 2012 as a contracted youth counsellor and was permanently employed the followed year. Colleagues say that Mica has been fundamental to establishing the presence of Youth Focus in Albany and in helping the office to become as highly regarded as it is today. Mica works four days a week including travelling to Denmark once a week to see clients as well as spending a day a week at the Albany headspace office operated by Youth Focus. She is proactive in keeping her case work at a very high standard, demonstrates a high level of professionalism and strong work ethic and is a happy and valued team member. Mica has also developed and maintained key relationships within the Albany community.”


Community Award 

The award recognises an individual’s voluntary support and commitment to Youth Focus to benefit mental health services for young Western Australians.

The winner – Greg Hire

“Greg is an extraordinary person who has been an Ambassador with Youth Focus since 2013.  He has been an inspirational force in promoting youth mental health especially through his charity A Stitch in Time. Greg has enriched young lives through the delivery of mentor programs which promote the importance of positive mental health and help shape our future leaders. Greg has a pretty busy lifestyle but is always up for a challenge and happy to take part in or initiate fundraising activities – regardless how outrageous they might be – for Youth Focus. In his spare time, Greg is a pretty good basketballer as the vice-captain of the Perth Wildcats basketball team in the National Basketball League.”


Media Award

The award recognises a Western Australian media outlet or journalist that responsibly and consistently reports on issues relating to suicide, suicide prevention and mental health issues with accuracy, clarity and sensitivity.

The winner – Amanda Keenan, Deputy Editor of the Weekend West magazine of The West Australian newspaper.

“Earlier this year, Amanda wrote a powerful story about Mark Richards who suffered depression for many years before taking his own life at age 27 in 2009. Amanda spoke to Mark’s mother Anne and his brother Steve. It was a story of love, loss and hope – written with eloquence and insight. It also highlighted life-saving work of Youth Focus. Tonight’s award also recognises Amanda’s consistency in writing high quality stories of this type – whether to highlight the suicide prevention work of Youth Focus or that of other organisations.”


Corporate Social Responsibility Award

This award recognises a company’s contributions in supporting early intervention mental health services and suicide prevention for young people and for promoting positive mental health. (Two awards were presented in this category).

The winner – Hawaiian

“Hawaiian has been involved with the iconic Hawaiian Ride for Youth since it started nearly 15 years ago – specifically as the naming rights sponsor. Hawaiian’s support has enabled riders to raise $15 million for the prevention of youth suicide. Hawaiian has also been instrumental in guiding Youth Focus as it has grown and evolved. This is especially through the representation of Hawaiian CEO Russell Gibbs on the Board from 2004, including being Deputy Chair from 2008 to 2011 and Hawaiian’s Chief Financial Officer Damian Gordon having been a Youth Focus Board Director since 2012. Hawaiian has also helped spread the Youth Focus messages through staff education and introducing mental health programs to local schools.”

The winner – Alcoa of Australia

“Alcoa of Australia has been an important Youth Focus partner for several years and has been instrumental in supporting the work of Youth Focus in the Peel region where the demand for our services has increased greatly. Alcoa of Australia first became involved with Youth Focus via the local refineries as early as 2007. Since then, their involvement with Youth Focus has grown substantially to further support young people and their families.

In 2015-16, partnership activities included funding for:

  • The provision of youth mental health counselling including that of one counsellor based in the Peel region;
  • The delivery of the Year 9 School Mental Health Awareness Program at two local schools;
  • A Community Mental Health Forum in Mandurah.

Alcoa’s strong presence in the local community and its generous financial partnership means Youth Focus can provide increased services to more vulnerable young people – services which are desperately needed in many regional areas. And of course, this is especially so in Peel which experienced tragic losses of young life to suicide earlier this year. ”


Corporate Citizen Award

This award recognises a business person who uses their influence to foster positive mental health in the Western Australian community.

The winner – the late Geoff Rasmussen.

“Geoff Rasmussen was a co-founder of Azure Capital and the company’s longest serving Managing Director.  He was also chairman of the Azure Capital Foundation which was established in 2009 to help deserving organisations – including Youth Focus – fulfil their charters. He was a Youth Focus Director from 2003 to 2012 and was the Board Chair from 2008 to 2012. Sadly, at 45 years young, Geoff lost his battle to cancer in April this year. There is no doubt that Geoff left behind a great and enduring legacy as a Youth Focus mentor and Ambassador including through participating in two Hawaiian Rides for Youth in 2012 and 2014. Azure Capital has sponsored a Hawaiian Ride for Youth team each year since 2011 and will sponsor again in 2017. As an enduring mark of respect to this wonderful champion of our cause, the Corporate Citizen Award will be henceforth known as the Geoff Rasmussen Corporate Citizen Award.”

Media contact: Kaye Hopkins 0448 882 893



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