Ali Pretzel, 21
I joined the Youth Reference Group in 2018 and have really enjoyed it. I love knowing that I can make a difference to young lives!
I am passionate about erasing the stigma that surrounds mental health and I enjoy attending events on behalf of Youth Focus to spread awareness in the community. I, like many others, have suffered with mental health issues but I now use my experiences to show others that things do get better and it’s ALWAYS okay to ask for help.
Amy Gibbs, 20
My connection with Youth Focus started with my dad who is highly involved with the Hawaiian Ride for Youth. Each year I would go and watch as the masses of inspirational adults would fly through the finish line, having just shared their knowledge and personal stories about mental health.
I began to realise just how many people are affected by mental illnesses and that the majority are my age. With it being such a prominent part of society, I wanted to help make a change because it was my friends and family who were being personally affected. The Youth Reference Group (YRG) provides the perfect opportunity for me to play my role in helping these struggling teens. We are the voice for the youth in an organisation which is dedicated to making that change. I am able to see our opinions being put into action, making the monthly YRG meetings completely worth it. Instead of being buried on the sidelines, struggling to give our say, we are up the front speaking loud and clear to an audience who want to listen.
Bree-anna Tilbrook, 21
As a past client of Youth Focus I have an understanding of some of the difficulties young people face in terms of their mental health.
Being actively engaged in the community and being involved in the organisations, as well as having an input into what projects, or services work best for Youth Focus clients. All the opportunities we are given to speak up and help beat the stigma around mental health and suicide is a great passion of mine, and being a part of the Youth Reference Group is a great platform for my future career as a school Psychologist.
Joel Weir, 21
As someone who knows how difficult it is to deal with mental illness, I feel that it’s crucial that Youth Focus continues to provide their services all across WA.
Mental health is something I’m incredibly passionate about and by volunteering with Youth Focus, I hope we can not only help to keep our services relevant to the youth of today, but to also help remove the stigma that surrounds mental illness.
I want people to feel safe and comfortable when talking about their struggles rather than bottling everything in. Whether that be when talking to family, friends, or a professional, I want the people of WA to recognise that it is OK to not be OK.
Lily Philp, 23
I joined the Youth Reference Group (YRG) at a mid-point in my mental health journey. I was still struggling, but beginning to work things out.
Writing this, it has been two years since that point, and Youth Focus through the YRG has helped me understand how to treat myself and others. I’ve also been able to use my own journey and experience to provide feedback on what I think would help others. Everyone's process is different, and having seen high school counselors, and public and private mental health professionals, I’ve learned that there is so often a disconnect between what is being provided and what would actually help. Working with Youth Focus has been really important to me to increase accessibility and engagement of young people with the Youth Focus services. This ‘journey’ isn’t straightforward, nor does it have a set timeline, but as I’ve learned about myself and the services available, Youth Focus has adapted too. The YRG is a really great space to help develop Youth Focus, but it is also a really great space to develop yourself.
Midaiah Harnett, 19
I think recent generations have finally started to see the importance of recognising mental health issues within society, and especially within young people.
However, it’s important not to let this small step be considered “progress” in the sense of thinking the problem is solved, and no longer needs attention or consideration. It’s important as young people to keep fighting for the issues which affect us, and one of those is a poor understanding and acceptance of mental health within the community. When two in three people under the age of 25 have experienced some form of mental illness or struggled significantly with their mental health, we need to be active in spreading the message that this is nothing to be ashamed of; a message of acceptance. I think that’s why I’m passionate; because young people should never feel ashamed, and need to know there are people who will support and accept them through anything. That’s what everyone deserves.
Roberto Vitali-Lawn, 19
Mental health is extremely important for anyone from a social or economic perspective.
Your mental health, like any other facet of health, influences your potential and capability to participate in society. Having strong mental health is essential for your wellbeing as a person and is incredibly important especially at an emerging age. Youth Focus is an amazing service that provides free counselling services to young people who are more susceptible to a growing issue that should be dealt with in the community, from the front lines. Personally, I have always been involved with mental health and seen the destruction that being without access to mental health services can cause especially within young people.
Tessa Gilson, 20
What makes me happiest is seeing people grow into the best people they can possibly be.
When someone is struggling with their mental health it can prevent all the growth that they are so capable of achieving. I am passionate about being involved with Youth Focus because their services support young people with mental illness so that they can continue to thrive as incredible individuals.
Zac Boase, 20
Our values and beliefs are shaped by our lived experiences and like many people, I feel the need to give back and to help others.
Being a member of the Youth Reference Group (YRG) allows me to give back and help other people in need, at a time when they need it most. It’s this enabling of altruism and the ability to help others as well as be apart of an enthusiastic group with a shared goal that makes me a passionate member of the YRG.
Sasha Keay-Smith, 22
As someone studying counselling and being passionate about the mental wellbeing of youth, I joined the YRG to do my part in raising more awareness around the importance of mental health and the work that Youth Focus does.
From my experience and that of my close friends, I really understand the importance of building a stronger awareness of and also access to mental health services, in order to support youth through such a transformative time and give them the tools they may need with them now, as well as for the rest of their lives.
Joanne Lam, 17
I want to support an organisation that empowers people to find their inner strength.
Through accessing mental health services in the past, I've learnt (and I'm still learning) of ways to get through rough patches in my life. I can definitely say that I feel more resilient and ready to deal with any issues that may come up. In a strange way, I am grateful for my mental health journey because even though I still need support, it has led me down a path of clarity and given me so many opportunities to grow as a person. More often than not, mental health issues do not have one quick fix. I believe that looking after your mental health requires a continual adjustment of approaches, and these are the skills that I want everyone to have. I want to contribute to an organisation that will coach young people into the best versions of themselves.
Danielle D’Souza, 21
I am passionate about being a member of the Youth Reference Group because I would like to be part of a group that aims to better the wellbeing of young people that are struggling.
I enjoy being around people who are also motivated to make a difference and I believe that with this group we can bring more exposure to mental health issues and teach society to be more aware and accepting.
Elyse Wallace, 20
I wanted to join the Youth Reference Group to be a voice for others who aren’t ready to stand up and use their voice just yet.
I’ve watched young people go through vulnerable times and haven’t known about the support available to them. Sometimes you need more than a friend to lean on. Youth Focus provides this support to young people.
Sundara Link, 21
I joined the Youth Reference Group to help young people gain a better understanding of their mental health and how to flourish in such a difficult world.
Youth Focus helped me when I was struggling with my mental health, and now I want to be able to give back to young people in my community.
If you are in an emotional crisis and require urgent support, please contact:
- Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
- Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
- Lifeline on 13 11 14
If you are looking for more information and online support, please refer to the following online resources: