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

Alcoa of Australia continues to support young people in the Peel region

June 22nd, 2017
Alcoa of Australia is a premier partner of Youth Focus. Since 2011, Alcoa of Australia has enabled Youth Focus to care for hundreds of young people through schools and outreach centres in the Peel region.

Youth Focus and Alcoa of Australia recently entered into a two-year partnership to support the provision of face-to-face counselling for young people in the Peel region. This meaningful partnership will also support the delivery of the ground-breaking Young Men’s Project, as well as several Peel-based community mental health forums which aim to educate and engage the community on the topic of youth mental health.

With the support of corporate social responsibility leaders such as Alcoa of Australia, Youth Focus is able to provide the professional mental health services so desperately needed in regional areas.

For more information on corporate partnerships, please contact the Youth Focus Partnerships Manager here.

Young men with mental health concerns need their mates!

June 6th, 2017

One of Western’s Australia’s leading mental health service providers for 12 to 25 year olds, is appealing to the community to Mind Your Mates, especially young men.

Youth Focus CEO Fiona Kalaf said the organisation was successful in assisting young men with their mental health issues but taking the first step towards self-help was often the hardest.

“Men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women but they are less likely to reach out for help,” Ms Kalaf said.

“Many young men still feel there’s a stigma associated with mental health issues, are too embarrassed to talk to others and often just stick it out and hope their problems will disappear.”

Ms Kalaf was launching Youth Focus’s Mind Your Mates – an end of financial year campaign aimed at raising funds and awareness and to coincide with Men’s Health Week from June 12 to 18.

Mind Your Mates focuses on young men’s mental health and calls on male and female “mates” to support their male friends with mental health issues.

If you wish to donate, please go to or text MATE to 0437 371 371.

Ms Kalaf said that the 2015 Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed only 27 per cent of men sought help compared to 40 per cent of women.

“The confronting reality is that mental health problems rarely go away without intervention and can be magnified to the point where self-harm or, in some cases, suicide may occur,” she said.

“It is also particularly disturbing that of the 59 young lives lost to suicide in WA in 2015, the majority were males.”

Ms Kalaf said the participation rate for young men accessing Youth Focus’s free, professional counselling services had risen from 20 per cent in 2013 to 28 per cent in 2015, reflecting targeted efforts to work with more young men.

“This trend seems to have continued into the last six months of 2016 with 38 per cent of our clients in metropolitan schools being male, 33 percent in regional schools and young men making up nearly 30 per cent of clients attending our office locations,” she said.

“We believe some of this success can be attributed to our education and training work in schools through the Understanding Mental Health presentations to Year 9 students, where we are reducing stigma and empowering young people, especially males, to seek help for mental health issues.”

Ms Kalaf said that while this was encouraging, Youth Focus needed the help of the community – especially ‘mates’- to ensure that young people at risk received early intervention with their issues.

“We are urging friends and families to talk to young men about their mental health concerns as well as donating generously so that Youth Focus can continue to provide its life-changing services,” she said.

Youth Focus has an office in Burswood, Joondalup, Albany, Bunbury and Rockingham. It is also the lead agency for headspace centres in Albany, Midland and Geraldton.

Media contact: Kaye Hopkins 0448 882 893

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.