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Perth man in English Channel swim for Youth Focus

A Scarborough youth worker will swim the notoriously challenging English Channel crossing to raise money for Youth Focus counselling and mental health support.

Jon McArdell, 37, will face punishing currents, wild winds, cold waters, two-metre waves, jellyfish and exhaustion during the 21 mile (32km) channel crossing, which is considered the ultimate long distance swimming feat.

He hopes to successfully swim the gruelling passage between England and France and, in the process, help young people in Western Australia by raising $5000 for Youth Focus.

“After complications at birth Mum put me in the pool when I was five years old to help my development,” Jon said.

“I was in the state team by the age of 16, representing WA in the National Age Championships.

“In recent years I’ve done a lot of open water swimming and have completed the Rottnest Channel Swim several times over the last 10 years, including four times solo.

“The English Channel will be the biggest thing I will ever do in my life.”

It was Jon’s coach, seven-time world open water swimming champion and successful English Channel crosser Shelley Taylor-Smith, who suggested he take up the challenge after his last swim at in the Port to Pub in March was cancelled midway through the race because of poor conditions.

“I said: ‘Let’s do it! So, I’ve been training my butt off over the last four months to get prepared for the swim in September,” said Jon, who works at a participation coordinator with the Department of Education to re-engage young people in education and training.

“Swimming the English Channel really wasn’t on my radar, although it was something I had fleetingly considered. I hadn’t given it too much thought until this year. I’d been swimming well and thought why not?”

As part of his rigorous training regime, Jon swims 50km a week, including 5am swim sessions in the Swan River to help acclimatise to the English Channel’s cold conditions.

Depending on the weather and tidal conditions, he plans to set off from Dover in early September, expecting it will take him between 11 and 14 hours to complete the English Channel crossing. He said he was acutely aware of the need for youth mental health services.

“I’m a youth worker and have worked with young people for the past 10 years. I’m very passionate about youth mental health and particularly youth suicide prevention. It’s something that’s very close to my heart,” he said. “All the money that I raise will go to Youth Focus.”

Youth Focus Chief Executive Officer Fiona Kalaf said Youth Focus supporters were invaluable in helping the organisation continue its important work to prevent youth suicide.

Suicide is the biggest killer of young Australians, with latest statistics showing 54 young people aged between 15 and 24 took their own lives in Western Australia in 2016. For every suicide, another 20 people attempt to take their own lives.

“We value greatly community members like Jon who selflessly give up their time and energy to fundraise to benefit the lives of young people in our community,” Ms Kalaf said.

“It is largely due to the generosity of individuals and companies that we are able to provide young people with critical counselling services as well as suicide prevention education in schools.”

Last financial year, Youth Focus supported a record number of young people in WA, providing free counselling and assessment services to 3654 young people and school and community education to another 6000 people.

To donate to Jon’s swim visit:

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.

MEDIA CONTACT: Nicole Cox – 0419 941 443, [email protected]