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Youth Focus celebrates unsung heroes with awards


Dedicated supporters of Youth Focus who contribute to the youth suicide prevention cause have been recognised in the 2020 Make a Difference Awards.

Seven awards were presented to recipients in a special ceremony 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 to encourage positive mental health.

Youth Focus Chief Executive Officer Arthur Papakotsias said this year’s COVID-19 pandemic had exposed greater vulnerability amongst young people, which had led to a significant rise in the level of mental health distress.

“Never before has access to mental health care been so important for young people. The continued assistance from our supporters means Youth Focus has been able to reach as many young people as possible with vital counselling and education programs,” he said.

Suicide is the leading cause of death amongst 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 2019.

Mr Papakotsias said while considerable investment had been made in youth mental health, more funding was needed as mental health organisations grapple to help more Western Australians post pandemic.

“The University of Sydney has forecast a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 related mental health related presentations to emergency departments, hospital treatment after self-harm episodes and suicide deaths of people aged between 15-24,” he said.

“At best, research by the university’s Brain and Mind Centre projects an increase of suicides of young people by 12.4%, at worst 18.3% over the next five years.

“Demand for our services has increased. Last financial year we experienced an increase of 34% and we expect an upward trend in the number of young people facing mental health challenges as a result of the COVID pandemic.

“For that reason, we need to see more investment from governments, corporate partners and individual sponsors so we can reach more young people and help save lives.”

Last financial year Youth Focus supported 6090 young people through its free, uncapped counselling and assessment services and another 5773 people through school and community education programs at 37 schools.

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:

Robert Kenway

Robert has come a long way in the past three years. From homeless and living with crippling anxiety, he has made significant improvements to his personal wellbeing, including securing stable accommodation and a job. Under the guidance of the team at headspace Albany, Robert embraced a range of support services, including counselling, vocational support and group activities. Despite isolation during COVID-19, he remained highly engaged with his vocational specialist, meeting weekly to improve his skills, explore options for further education and actively apply for jobs. He is a shining example of what can be achieved with dedication and persistence.

Community Impact Award:

Brad Miller

Driven by his deeply personal story of his mother’s journey with depression and losing his sister, Clare, to suicide in 2017, Brad has made a significant difference to the suicide prevention cause. A rider in the Hawaiian Ride for Youth since 2018, Brad’s first ride into Perth heartbreakingly coincided with the first anniversary of his sister’s death. Despite this emotional connection, he has offered heartrending presentations to high school students and this year agreed to be involved in a social media video, which reached 6000 people.

Community Partner Award:

City of Swan Youth Development and Swan City Youth Service

The City of Swan and Swan City Youth Services have forged an important community connection with the Our Place: A Safe Space collaboration. The initiative provides a fortnightly drop-in in Midland for young LGBTIQA+ people aged between 12 and 25. Established more than a year ago, the program has had extremely positive feedback from individuals and their families, in some cases being described as having had a life-changing impact. The program is supported by Youth Focus and headspace Midland.

Geoff Rasmussen Corporate Citizen Award:

Dane Waters – Health Communication Resources

Dane has worked collaboratively with headspace Geraldton in a range of roles, including as an active member of the headspace Geraldton consortium, conducting evaluation projects for the service and creating promotional material around positive mental health and respectful relationships through his workplace, Health Communication Resources.

Dane regularly promotes mental health awareness by developing visual and audio resources with local services that focus on de-stigmatising mental health and promoting mental health awareness. He is also a member of the local Suicide Action Prevention Group and Community Respect & Equality, a community initiative focused on primary prevention of family violence.

Tim Anderson Scholarship:

Full Scholarship: Tony Nguyen

Half Scholarships: Matthew Tadi & Aaliyah Seedat

The Tim Anderson Scholarships are awarded in honour of 26-year-old Tim Anderson who was killed by a drunk driver while cycling in Mosman Park in 2012.

The scholarships support the education aspirations of young Western Australians involved in the work of Youth Focus, whether as current or former clients or post graduate students undertaking study in the area of youth mental health.

The Full Scholarship winner is awarded $5000 towards university fees, while the Half Scholarship winners are awarded $2500 towards TAFE, or other college, course studies.




Nicole Cox – 0419 941 443

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