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Byron Shire
June 21, 2021

Tweed mentoring program to tackle youth suicide

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Members of the Yanbehla Youth Mentoring Program, from left to right: Charnele Scott, Jacintha Morrisey, Chloe Franks, Jaala Veli-Skimmings, Dale Williams (aunty), Kreeann Phillips, Bronwyn Penrith (trainer), Curtley Caldwell, Dylan Finn, Tiarne Neal and Jackson Ross (wheelchair at front). They are giving up their time to help prevent youth suicide at the grass roots.

‘There have been too many suicides happening in our local community – especially youth who are living with and suffering from depression.’

Suicide, depression and anxiety are not your average conversation topics for the youth of Tweed Heads, but a new youth-mentoring group is determined to change that.

Leading non-profit community support provider New Horizons has provided funding for staff and community members to form the Yanbehla Youth Mentoring Program.

Participants in the program have already started to undergo mentor training in order to support those who have lost loved ones through suicide or who are experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Suicide is among the top five killers of young people in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a figure that New Horizons senior community worker Shana Lazer says is largely preventable.

‘There have been too many suicides happening in our local community – especially youth – who are living with and suffering from depression,’ Ms Lazer said, adding, ‘we wanted to offer this program so that people are not suffering in silence’.

‘As an organisation, we are walking beside the community to give them the skills and support they need to help address mental-health issues in a safe and healthy way.

‘Once the young mentors graduate from the program, they will essentially act as guides for other youths to help link in with appropriate services.’

The mentoring program aims to support youths of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous backgrounds, to close the gap in terms of Indigenous mental health and to build stronger and more connected communities.

At the end of the program, the young mentors will be awarded with a Certificate IV in Mentoring in Diverse Groups, which is the highest mentoring qualification in Australia.

Mentor trainer and director Ian Bridger of Bridgeway Barnes and Associates said the region had been in need of the specialised support program for some time.

‘People living outside major cities are at a higher risk of feeling isolated and disconnected,’ Mr Bridger said.

‘Quite often, if people don’t seek help early on, what may have started as a small problem can quickly develop into a big one.

‘The aim of the youth-mentoring program is to both encourage the community to speak up about mental health – particularly suicide, depression and anxiety – and to give young people the skills necessary to help those who do seek their help.’

Mentor-in-training Jacintha Morrisey said she wanted to be a part of the group to let community members know they are not alone.

‘We are involved in this project to let young people know that they are not alone,’ Ms Morrisey said, adding, ‘We will be there to help other young people to guide them in the right direction – there is light at the end of the tunnel’.

The Yanbehla Youth Mentoring Program had its first meeting in November 2012. Program participants are expected to graduate in June 2013.

‘It doesn’t matter who people speak to, just so long as they do seek help,’ Ms Lazer said.

If you or someone you know needs help, there is always someone to talk to – 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To contact a suicide helpline call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For support with depression call Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636. 


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