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.

Hawaiian Ride for Youth raises a record $2.4 million

April 7th, 2017

The record-breaking 2017 Hawaiian Ride for Youth has broken yet another record with $2,486,637 being raised to date.

The total surpasses last year’s $2.356 million and is likely to rise higher as further donations are received.

The Ride, which has become known as one of Western Australia’s premier charity events, raises awareness and funds for Youth Focus and its work in preventing youth suicide and depression among young Western Australians.

Youth Focus CEO Fiona Kalaf said the event, which has so far raised a total of more than $17 million since it started in 2003, could not have achieved such outstanding success without the support of Western Australian businesses, metropolitan and regional communities, schools and dedicated individuals, especially the riders and support crews.

“This year the Hawaiian Ride for Youth had a record number of 173 riders, a record number of 34 sponsored teams, 16 CEO Challengers, a record number of 35 female riders and a record number of 47 support crew members,” Ms Kalaf said.

“A record number of 23 regional high schools also took part with more than 3,500 students and hundreds of local community members becoming involved.

“Without the amazing support of every single business and individual, an event of this magnitude could not achieve the results we continue to see – results that not only encompass fundraising but also increased awareness about the importance of positive mental health.

“So a big thank you to the Western Australian community – your generosity will ensure that thousands more young people aged 12-25 will get the free, professional counselling services that they need.”

Over 4 ½ days from March 21-25 this year, the 173 riders cycled to Perth on three routes from Albany to Perth – Coastal, Inland and Wheatbelt – as well as on a new Mid West route from Geraldton.

Each group of riders covered about 700 km to Perth via regional towns including Katanning, Narrogin, Walpole, Pemberton, Busselton, Frankland River, Bridgetown, Gnowangerup, Manjimup, Collie and Mandurah on the Coastal, Inland and Wheatbelt routes, and Geraldton, Morawa, Dalwallinu, New Norcia and Northam on the Mid West route.

Sixteen CEO Challengers met up with riders in Mandurah and completed the 80 km into Kings Park.

Youth Focus CEO, Fiona Kalaf said the statistics around suicide were alarming, with one Western Australian taking their own life every day.

“This is why events like the Hawaiian Ride for Youth are so important in raising awareness about mental health issues as well as raising the funds needed to support vulnerable young people,” Ms Kalaf said.

To donate or for more information visit

Youth mental health – superheroes have bad days too!

March 26th, 2017

Young people are being encouraged to talk about mental health and wellbeing at a special Perth festival during National Youth Week (March 31 to April 9).

Superhero YOUth will be held at the very cool Urban Orchard space in the Perth Cultural Centre, Northbridge from 11am to 3pm on Sunday, April 2.

Special highlights include live music with bands Death by Denim and Marksman Lloyd plus food trucks and community stalls.

The event, now in its second year, has been jointly organised by passionate young people involved with Youth Focus’s Youth Reference Group and Zero2Hero.

Youth Focus CEO Fiona Kalaf said the organisers wanted to build a sense of community among young people at an event where conversations about mental health could be held openly.

“The spirit of the festival is to communicate the message that it’s okay not to be okay – every superhero has a bad day,” Ms Kalaf said.

Zero2hero CEO Ashlee Harrison said the event would be important in promoting positive mental health for young people.

“This event is a free youth music festival encouraging all young people to connect with one another and enjoy themselves in a safe environment,” Ms Harrison said.

Youth Focus is a for purpose Western Australian organisation that provides free, professional counselling services for 12 to 25 year-olds and works to prevent suicide.

Zero2Hero aims to increase an understanding and awareness of mental health issues among children and youth people through innovative programs, events and education.

Free event tickets are available at

The Facebook event link is


Media contacts:

Youth Focus, Kaye Hopkins, 0448 882 893

Zero2Hero, Ashlee Harrison, 0415 566 222

Help shape brighter futures for young people with mental illness

December 14th, 2016

Hundreds of young Western Australians with mental health issues will require extra intervention in early 2017, Youth Focus CEO Fiona Kalaf said today.

“The start of the academic year or a return to work often elevates stress levels in young people who confront issues including bullying, loneliness and peer pressure,” she said.

“And this can be exacerbated in those young people, especially students, who lack the personal resilience to cope with these stressors.

“That is why it is so important that Youth Focus continues to have the professional capacity to meet demand and intervene early to ensure these young people can become resilient adults.”

Ms Kalaf was launching a summer holidays’ awareness and fundraising campaign for Youth Focus called “Shaping brighter futures”.

“This summer we are appealing to the public to make a donation which will help shape a brighter future for young people with mental health issues,’’ Ms Kalaf said.

“Every $3,000 raised will enable a young person to receive the average six months professional counselling that can make a positive difference to their lives.

“Your donations will be invaluable for the thousands of young people who will receive free face-to-face counselling next year and the people who will connect with Youth Focus through school and workplace education sessions.”

Youth Focus is a for-purpose Western Australian organisation that aims to help 12 to 25 year olds with their mental health issues and works to prevent suicide. It has an office in Burswood, Rockingham, Joondalup and Albany as well as being the lead agency for headspace centres in Midland, Geraldton and Albany.

Ms Kalaf said almost 40 per cent of referrals to Youth Focus came through schools with regional schools accounting for 64 per cent of those school referrals.

“Suicide is the leading cause of death for our children under the age of 18 and the leading cause of death for young adults aged 18 to 25,” Ms Kalaf said.

“But our treatment model based on easy accessibility and early intervention unequivocally shows that young lives can be saved.

“In the 22 years since Youth Focus started operations, it has helped shape a brighter future for more than 18,500 young people through their journey to recovery.

“But it is vital that the public continues to support our mission so we can continue to meet demand and support community needs.”

If you would like to donate please visit or text the word ‘SHAPE’ to 0497 222 555.


Media contact: Kaye Hopkins 0448 882 893

Music Making Peer Support Day

November 23rd, 2016

The October Peer Support Day was a day of music making as seven young people pushed their comfort zones and made music with one another. By writing a song together, the group explored some of their similar challenges, values, and joys. Later, the group enjoyed playing a variety of percussion instruments in groups and pairs to bring their lyrics to life.

Though the group began as strangers, they all certainly ended with friends. We are very thankful to the facilitator Bridie Fitzgerald, and her many talents in bringing this group of young people together, and we are so proud of our young people for putting themselves out of their comfort zones and finding joy in making music with one another.

Increasingly complex problems for youth with mental health issues

November 17th, 2016

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


Demand soars for Youth Focus services in the Peel region

November 17th, 2016

The demand for mental health services for young people in the Peel region and Rockingham more than doubled in the first six months of 2016 compared to all of 2015, according to Youth Focus CEO Fiona Kalaf.

“From January to July this year, Youth Focus provided services to 90 young people in Peel and Rockingham compared to a total of 80 for 2015,” Ms Kalaf said during Mental Health Week.

“This equates to an overall total of 431 counselling sessions, including 72 school based sessions, with the majority occurring through our Rockingham office.

“The high demand for our services is a clear indicator that more young people in the region are displaying help-seeking behaviours, particularly given that that three in every four young people battling mental illnesses are not seeking help.”

Youth Focus is an independent Western Australian for purpose organisation that works to prevent youth suicide in the 12 to 25 age group.

It provides youth counselling and family therapy services to Peel and the Rockingham area from its Rockingham office as well as outreach locations and high schools.

Ms Kalaf said Youth Focus was in partnership with Alcoa of Australia which is funding the provision of youth mental health counselling including that of one counsellor based in the Peel region.

Alcoa is also providing funding for the delivery of the Year 9 School Mental Health Awareness Program at two schools as well as a Community Mental Health Forum.

“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,” Ms Kalaf said.

“Without the philanthropy of organisations like Alcoa, Youth Focus would not be able to provide the type of services so desperately needed in many regional areas.

“And this is especially so in Peel which experienced tragic losses of young life earlier this year.”

Alcoa of Australia Managing Director Michael Parker said the company’s partnership with Youth Focus aimed to support young people in need, while building a greater awareness and understanding of youth mental health.

“There is clearly a strong need to be supporting Peel youth,” Mr Parker said. “The more people in the community equipped to recognise and help young people with mental health issues, the stronger and more resilient the community will be.”

Ms Kalaf said the increased demand highlighted the importance of the Youth Focus school-based presence, given that schools, families and young people accounted for 73 per cent of all new referrals with 40 per cent from high schools.

She said it was interesting that 64 per cent of all Youth Focus school-based referrals were generated from high schools in regional and remote areas, including from the Peel region.

Youth Focus also collaborates with other community organisations including headspace to network, plan and provide extra support.

Youth mental health services in demand in Joondalup area

November 17th, 2016

An increasing number of young people aged 12 to 25 in the Joondalup area are seeking help for their mental health issues, according to Danielle Hill,  Clinical Lead at Youth Focus’ Joondalup office.

Ms Hill said this showed that more young people and their families were recognising the need to seek early intervention.

“Youth Focus clinicians now assist more than 160 young people from Joondalup, Wanneroo and Ellenbrook a year with free face-to-face sessions on a weekly basis,” she said.

“Our work also includes school based service provision in four high schools with clinicians meeting young people in their own environment and providing much needed counselling services.

“And we know our efforts are reaping success as evidence shows that the earlier young people seek help, the more likely they are to go onto become resilient adults.”

She said that the Joondalup office was “consistently busy” with occasional waitlists for services.

Ms Hill was speaking in support of a Charity Auction evening that is being organised by the Joondalup Business Association to raise awareness and funds for Youth Focus to continue its work in preventing youth suicide and helping young people with mental health issues.

The event will be held from 6 pm to 11 pm on Friday, November 25 at the Joondalup Business Centre.

Youth Focus’ Education and Training Coordinator Catherine Ashton will give a presentation about mental health issues relating to young people. The evening will also feature prizes and silent and live auctions.

Tickets cost $120 and include canapes, a three course meal and drinks and can be purchased at

For further information or to donate an auction item for auction please contact 9300 1414 or email

Ms Hill said the Joondalup office offered specialist intervention for youth presenting with depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal ideation as well as other presenting issues including bullying/cyber bullying, school stress, management of peer boundaries and family relationships and alcohol and drug issues.

“Therefore, it is wonderful that organisations like the Joondalup Business Association hold these types of charity auction events to raise money to support the work we do,” she said.

“This is vital not only in maintaining a much needed service to young people, but also in raising awareness about mental health issues, suicide prevention and reducing stigma to assist more young people coming forward and seeking support when they need it the most.”