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.”


There’s light on horizon in arresting suicide toll

October 10th, 2016

Isn’t it alarming that as Mental Health Week gets underway, suicide is still the number one cause of death of young people under 18 years of age?

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 59 children were lost to suicide out of a total of nearly 400 Western Australians who took their own lives in 2015.

That’s nearly 400 families, schools or workplaces, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters who are now trying to cope with the abject grief of their unnecessary and preventable loss.

The increasing rates of suicide are concerning and more action needs to be taken.

However, there is light on the horizon.

During the eight months I have been with Youth Focus, I have heard many stories about the journeys of young people on their way to mental health recovery.

But perhaps the story that has touched me the most is that of a young woman who endured unimaginable severe physical and emotional traumas from a very young age.

This remarkable young woman – with our help – is now enrolled in a human services degree because she wants to devote her life to making a positive and lasting difference to others.

It is an inspirational and courageous story which demonstrates the determination, resilience and compassion shown by many of Youth Focus’ 12 to 25 year-old Western Australian clients who need help with their mental health issues.

Importantly, this story highlights that early intervention is critical – the earlier that mental illness can be identified in young people the more likely they can progress to becoming resilient adults.

And the fact is that every week is Mental Health Week for the approximately 500,000 Western Australians living with mental illness.

For those who develop a mental illness, around 75 per cent of them will do so before their 25th birthday because, unlike many other illnesses which develop later in life, mental illness tends to present during youth.

Regrettably, only a small proportion will seek the professional help that they need at the time they need it.

Mental Health Week is a time to focus not only on the challenges of mental illness, but also on the opportunities to talk openly and safely about mental health and to encourage those who would benefit from help – including carers of people with a mental illness – to seek the professional assistance and advice that will make a positive difference.

Research has demonstrated that, when someone takes the all-important step to reach out and seek help, their risk of suicide decreases dramatically and their likelihood of recovery increases markedly.

We know the message is getting through: each year, more and more people are connecting with professional care, more and more schools are engaging with mental health as part of their programs, and more and more workplaces are making positive inroads to supporting their employees who have a diagnosed mental illness.

In fact, this year our counsellors will support more than 2,500 young Western Australians in their hour of need.

Since 2000, we have worked with more than 18,000 of our youth and only one of those has lost the battle to suicide.

With a clinically proven and accredited practice model, Youth Focus does make a positive difference to young people in our State.

But it is not enough.  Suicide remains the leading cause of death for Western Australians aged up to 44.

Put simply, this is unacceptable and all of us – government, organisations, communities, families and individuals – have a role to play in reversing this trend.

As a society we can no longer tolerate stigmas around mental health especially name-calling which only serves to demonise the subject, and can have a profoundly detrimental effect on someone who has, or thinks they might have, a mental illness.

For my part, this Mental Health Week, I am committing to sharing openly, safely and responsibly the importance of good mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Together, we have a responsibility to create emotionally resilient communities for our future generations and – in doing so – reduce the insufferable toll of suicide in Western Australia.

Fiona Kalaf, Chief Executive Officer, Youth Focus

2017 Hawaiian Ride for Youth Launched: New Mid-West route, from Geraldton to Perth, announced

September 29th, 2016

The biggest charity event on Western Australia’s fundraising calendar – the award-winning Hawaiian Ride for Youth in support of Youth Focus – will include a Mid-West route in 2017 from Geraldton to Perth.

Next year’s Hawaiian Ride for Youth was launched last night and 2017 will mark the fifteenth anniversary of this iconic event, to be held from 21-25 March.

A total of 180 riders across 34 teams will cycle almost 3,000 kilometres on the three routes from Albany to Perth – Coastal, Inland and Wheatbelt – as well as the new Mid-West route.

Riders will visit 23 schools promoting positive mental health and awareness to more than 3,500 students.

Announcing the new route, Youth Focus CEO Fiona Kalaf said the 700  kilometre Mid-West ride would start from Geraldton and travel through Morawa, Dalwallinu, New Norcia, Toodyay, Northam and then onto Kings Park, over four and a half days.

“Youth Focus has strong connections with the Mid-West region through our work in the headspace office in Geraldton and in the general community,” Ms Kalaf said.

“We are delighted that a peloton of around six teams will ride the new route with cyclists raising awareness about our life-saving services, as well as raising funds for Youth Focus.”

About 40 riders will take part in the Mid-West ride, visiting two schools along the way and engaging with various community organisations about Youth Focus and the Ride.

Youth Focus is an independent Western Australian for purpose organisation that works to support young people aged 12-25 with mental health issues and to prevent suicide.

The Hawaiian Ride for Youth aims to raise awareness about Youth Focus and its services as well as raising funds to provide counselling for thousands of young people and their families state-wide.

“The statistics around suicide are alarming,” Ms Kalaf said.

“One Western Australian takes their own life every day including one young person under the age of 25 each week.

“That 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.”

Chairman of the Hawaiian Ride for Youth Organising Committee, Bruce Fielding, said the most significant aspect about the Ride was the passion of participants.

“Without the riders and the support crews, and their incredible commitment to planning, recruiting, fundraising, training and taking a week out of their lives to do the Ride, Youth Focus would not have as much capacity as it does to help young Western Australians,” Mr Fielding said.

The Hawaiian Ride for Youth also includes the CEO Challenge which enables CEOs and company owners to take part in the final 80 kilometre leg of the Ride from Mandurah to Kings Park.

The event has raised more than $15 million since it started in 2003 with $10 million raised in the past five years alone.

Future Generation Investment Fund donates $116,000

September 28th, 2016

Youth Focus is pleased to announce that it has received a donation of almost $116,000 from shareholders of the Future Generation Investment Fund (FGX).

A partner of Youth Focus since 2015, FGX is committed to making a difference to the lives of Australian children with a focus on children at risk.  A unique aspect of the investment fund, FGX has a charitable goal of providing a source of funding to a number of designated charities.

With increased funding for the 2017 financial year, Youth Focus will assist more young people and families in Western Australia with face-to-face individual and family counselling dealing with mental health issues including depression, anxiety, self-harm and thoughts of suicide.

FGX contributed $88,000 to Youth Focus services last financial year.  The donation was utilised to fund a Youth Focus counsellor based at its Burswood office.  The counsellor provided intensive and ongoing face-to-face counselling to more than 60 young people aged 12-25 from the Burswood office and at a number of schools.

Youth Focus thanks FGX’s shareholders for their generosity in assisting young West Australians.

Read more about FGX here.

Workplaces must take more responsibility on mental health

September 7th, 2016

Western Australian organisations must take more responsibility for mental health in the workplace, Youth Focus CEO Fiona Kalaf said today.

“One in five Australians will experience mental health problems each year but too many organisations still don’t recognise the problem or know how to deal with it,” Ms Kalaf said.

“Australian research from 2008 shows that nearly half of all senior managers believe none of their workers will experience a mental health problem at work.

“And while awareness about mental health issues in the workplace is increasing, change is simply not happening fast enough.”

Ms Kalaf was speaking before the start of Lavan Legal Fit30 for Youth Focus challenge which encourages people to exercise 30 minutes a day every day during September and raise funds.

She said organisations needed to realise that most workers could successfully manage a mental illness without it impacting on their work.

“However, a lack of understanding or an unhealthy work environment can cause considerable distress and exacerbate or contribute to the development of mental illness,” Ms Kalaf said.

“Therefore, employers have a responsibility to understand the impact of mental illness in the workplace as employees have the right to be supported.”

Ms Kalaf said creating a safe and healthy workplace made good business sense.

“Twenty five per cent of Australian workers take time off for stress each year with $10 billion per annum being paid out in stress-related workers’ compensation claims,” she said.

“So if you have a healthy, supportive work environment you should have healthy, happy staff.”

Ms Kalaf said the link between physical and mental health was well documented and showed that people with poor physical health tended to feel more psychological distress than did healthy people.

“During September I am urging workplaces to get on board with Lavan Legal Fit30 and encourage their staff to take part – either individually or through team activities,” she said.

“And it doesn’t matter what activity people do – any exercise will assist in supporting healthy bodies and minds.”

Register for the 30 day challenge or donate to the Youth Focus team at