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Generous Youth Focus supporters honoured

Youth Focus supporters who have contributed significantly to the youth suicide prevention cause in Western Australia have been acknowledged at a special ceremony marking the 2019 Make a Difference Awards.

Eight awards were presented to recipients from all walks of life at the State Reception Centre at Kings Park last night.

The annual Make a Difference Awards are presented to individuals and organisations who have displayed drive and compassion in their support of Youth Focus’ important work to prevent youth suicide and by encouraging open conversations about mental health.

Youth Focus Chief Executive Officer Arthur Papakotsias said the value of Youth Focus supporters could not be underestimated and the commitment of sponsors and partners would allow the not-for-profit to take on a new strategic direction this year.

“Our supporters are the cornerstone of Youth Focus and play a pivotal role in helping us reach as many young people as possible in our mission to turn the tide on youth suicide and improve the mental health of young people,” Mr Papakotsias said.

“From the ongoing support of individuals to corporate partners to our staff, everyone has a role to play. These contributions make positive differences to young people’s lives and have a meaningful impact on our community.”

Suicide is the biggest killer of young people in the nation, with Australian Bureau of Statistics data showing 49 young people aged between 15 and 24 took their own lives in WA in 2018. For every suicide, another 25 people attempt to take their own lives.

Last financial year, Youth Focus supported a record number of young people in WA, providing free counselling and assessment services to 4559 young people and school and community education to another 6800 people.

“Sadly, we are seeing an increase in demand for youth mental health services,” Mr Papakotsias said.

“We have started thinking differently about several Youth Focus models, including our outreach services, in particular in remote communities, and expanding our remit to ensure clients are able to access Youth Focus services from locations where they feel safest and most secure, whether they be from home or in a community environment.”

If you or someone you know needs urgent support please contact the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467, the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.


Youth Awards:

Joel Weir

Joel is a member of the Youth Focus Youth Reference Group and current client who has openly shared his journey in a range of forums, including in the media, in an effort to encourage positive conversations about mental health. Joel will also participate in the 2020 Hawaiian Ride for Youth.

Matthew Tadi

Matt has been a client of Youth Focus since 2018 has shown remarkable courage in exploring his mental health challenges, despite previous negative experiences with counselling. In spite of these trials, Matt agreed to participate in the Youth Focus mentoring program in November 2018.

Employee Award:

Puja Menon

Puja (PJ) has been the main driver behind a new LGBTIQ safe group at Midland headspace. As an In-Kind Youth Counsellor for Youth Focus, her passion and involvement in this innovative program has helped forge a significant partnership with the City of Swan. PJ has also shown outstanding commitment and passion to improve the services we deliver to the LGBTIQA+ community. Not only has she demonstrated this through grant applications and events, but she has also gone above and beyond to build strong partnerships with key stakeholders. An inspiration for her team, PJ has demonstrated hard work and commitment for a cause she describes as “bigger than herself”.

Community Advocate Award:

Benjamin Allison

As part of his role with the headspace Geraldton Youth Reference Group, Ben has been dedicated to setting up a youth “jamming group”. The group offers a space for young people to play music, as well as learn about headspace Geraldton and the services available. Ben volunteers his time to organise and set up the monthly Sound Hub and attends regular Youth Reference Group activities.

Community Partner Award:

Royal Flying Doctor Service WA

Through delivering medical services to remote and regional WA, RFDS WA identified an unmet need in youth mental health support. The organisation has partnered with Youth Focus to help deliver youth counselling services in areas where they are not easily accessible. Under the innovative partnership, the RFDS WA provides support, enabling Youth Focus to strengthen its psychological care offerings by stationing additional clinicians in selected towns, including Wiluna, Meekatharra, Cue, Yalgoo, Sandstone and Paynes Find.

Kim Morrison – Ocean Reef Senior High School

Kim has been a supporter of Youth Focus as a counselling service and education provider for the Ocean Reef Senior High School community. The school psychologist has displayed dedication to the wellbeing of students by ensuring Youth Focus’ Having a Conversation about Mental Health workshop has been delivered to Year 9 students for the past seven years. In that time, almost 1000 students have received the presentation, as well as 120 families and most teachers.

Volunteer of the Year Award:

Matt Gibbs

Matt volunteers his time to mentor young people with Youth Focus. Through this work, he plays a pivotal role in the early intervention of mental health issues and has helped clients transitioning out of counselling. Matt volunteered his time as support crew for the Hawaiian Ride for Youth in 2016 and 2017, before riding in the 2019 event. During the 2019 ride, Matt shared his personal journey with students at Gnowangerup District High School, encouraging them to talk to people, find their own support networks and own their emotions. He is registered to ride again in 2020.

Geoff Rasmussen Corporate Citizen Award:

John Busby

John’s initiation to the Hawaiian Ride for Youth was as a sponsor but he soon joined the riders’ ranks. He has completed seven rides and participated as a CEO Challenger in 2016 and 2018. John’s fundraising contribution, especially the Hawaiian Ride for Youth Race Day, has been significant over the years while he has maintained the sponsorship of Team Budget and supplying support vehicles during ride week. He is also sponsoring a team in the 2020 Ride.