Shoot some hoops. Grab a burger. Kick a footy. Have a game of pool.
Youth Focus and the Young Men’s Project will launch M8D8 with Alcoa Australia on Tuesday, April 13 in a concerted bid to normalise the “date” concept for guys, urging them to connect and converse.
The launch event will be held at the Peel Health Hub in Allnutt Street, Mandurah from 4pm to 7pm, with free burgers and beats, as well as food trucks, coffee and community sports. Fremantle Dockers defender and Youth Focus ambassador Alex Pearce will also attend.
Another event will be held at The Zone Youth Space at the corner of Gilmore Avenue and Darius Drive, Kwinana Beach on Thursday, April 15 from 4.30pm to 6.30pm.
The genesis of M8D8 was born out of collaborations between young men and teens at the Alcoa-funded Peel Young Men’s Project event in 2018, where young males worked together on insightful and effective suicide prevention concepts.
Youth Focus Chief Executive Officer Arthur Papakotsias said research showed young men often found it difficult to initiate connections and conversations with their mates when they were doing it tough.
“Statistics have shown that young men in Australia are three times more likely to take their own lives than young women,” Mr Papakotsias said.
“M8D8 is about helping young men feel comfortable and confident to start conversations about mental health with their mates. Sometimes, just having a simple chat can be all that it takes to bring a friend out of a dark place.”
Latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data show 49 young people aged between 15 and 24 took their own lives in WA in 2019.
Mr Papakotsias said the past year and the COVID-19 pandemic had shown that mental health support has never been more important for young people.
“The mental health and wellbeing of young people in the Peel region remains a primary focus for Youth Focus. Our connections with young clients in Peel have shown a third have acute mental health challenges and are at risk of developing suicidal behaviours.
“We have seen a 34% increase in demand for our services at Youth Focus in the past year. At the same time the University of Sydney has forecast an increase in suicides of young people by 12.4%, at worst 18.3% over the next five years. This is of great concern.”
Pearce, who has been sidelined from the 2021 AFL season for at least two months with a knee injury, welcomed M8D8, saying he had struggled through time off the field.
“The disappointment that goes with being injured can really take its toll. I’ve been through some really dark times feeling like I had lost part of myself because I wasn’t playing football,” he said.
“But I have always been supported by an amazing network of mates, family and teammates, so understand the importance of connections. A M8D8 doesn’t need to be a big deal, it can be as simple as checking in with a friend to make sure they’re going OK.”
Alcoa Australia Corporate Affairs Director Jodie Read said the resources company was proud to be able to support Youth Focus in delivering free mental health services across the Kwinana, Peel and upper South West areas.
“This important initiative forms part of our ongoing commitment to help Youth Focus make a real and lasting difference to the lives of young people dealing with mental health issues in the communities where we operate,” Ms Read said.
Youth Focus is the only specialist non-government youth mental health service in WA and works to prevent suicide and improve the mental health of young people aged 12 to 25 through its free counselling, outreach and community education services.
Last financial year Youth Focus supported 6090 young people through its counselling and assessment services and another 5773 people through school and community education programs at 37 schools.
Nicole Cox – 0419 941 443