australian youth advocates for mental health

In February 2019, 14 advocates from across the Australian youth mental health sector were recruited to lead a new youth participation initiative.

Funded by the Department of Health, and coordinated by headspace National, the cross-sector initiative - Australian Youth Advocates for Mental Health (AYAMH) - aims to promote youth mental health literacy, improve help seeking, support young people’s capacity for self-care and reduce mental health stigma across Australia.

The program involves a strong focus on the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people.

Co-designing a national initiative
The advocates bring a diverse range of experiences in youth participation roles across the sector as well as their own lived experiences. They have been co-designing a national initiative that will help improve mental health and wellbeing of young Australians.

The advocates also had the opportunity to workshop their ideas with the guidance of leading youth suicide prevention and mental health researchers. They brought together these perspectives, alongside their own lived experiences and those of their communities, to identify unmet needs in the youth mental health space.

With an agreed focus on storytelling, wellbeing, community engagement and capacity building, the advocates will be working into the next 12 months to design and deliver an initiative that addresses their learnings.

Cross-sector collaboration
From inception through recruitment and co-design, the group has been guided by a cross-sector steering committee comprising youth and staff representatives from Batyr, BeyondBlue, Black Dog Institute, Butterfly Foundation,  Consumers Health Forum of Australia, Mind Australia, Orygen, ReachOut and SANE.

Meet the Australian Youth Advocates for Mental Health

Amy Boyd Braiden Fitzsimmons Beau Vernon Dani Leever Hannah Godfrey
Harry Iles-Mann Jacob Corpus Jess Revens Jamie Sea Josh Di Nucci
Josh Muir Kara Farrell Niharika Hiremath Scott Wilson  
         
Amy Boyd
Gold Coast, QLD

   

Amy is passionate about building the capacity, resilience, and literacy of people who have loved-ones experiencing difficulties with their mental health.

In her position as an Australian Youth Advocate for Mental Health, Amy hopes to be a representative for young people who are supporting family and friends through their mental ill-health.

Amy has previously been a carer for two members of her family who experienced mental-ill health and also has a lived experience of her own.

Amy is currently working at headspace Southport where she designs and implements training programs to ensure young people feel supported and confident in their roles at the centre. Additionally, Amy works at Gen Z Employment running group programs for young people with the hope of getting them re-engaged in education, training, or employment.

Amy loves drawing, going to music gigs, collecting plants and spending her time at the beach. When she isn’t at the beach she is studying for her Master’s degree in public health.

Braiden Fitzsimmons
Melbourne, VIC

     

Braiden is passionate about advocating for men’s mental health, reducing the stigma surrounding male mental health and increasing young people’s mental health literacy.

When Braiden was 16, he started to experience symptoms of an eating disorder. This went on for nearly five years before Braiden sought help. At 21, he received a diagnosis of bulimia nervosa and now hopes to use his story to encourage other Australian’s to seek help.

In his position as an Australian Youth Advocate for Mental Health, Braiden hopes to help young men to better understand the importance of looking after their mental health, and to know that help is available when they need it. He hopes to, in collaboration with The Butterfly Foundation, break through barriers for people with eating disorders. He believes that everyone should have a voice and he hopes that through this program he can help other young people find theirs.

Braiden commonly gets mistaken for being 6’0 but is actually only 5’11 ¾. He is a massive NBA fan – so if anyone wants to go shoot hoops, let him know! He also loves the colour coral.

Beau Vernon
Phillip Island, VIC

     

Beau is passionate about improving the mental health of all Australians and normalising the experience of living with a disability.

In 2012, whilst playing football, Beau had an accident that left him quadriplegic. It was during this time that he experienced a low point in his life whilst trying to adjust to his new situation. This empowered Beau to want to help others who might be in a similar situation to him.  

In his position as an Australian Youth Advocate for Mental Health, Beau hopes to give Australian’s a voice who might be feeling down because of a disability. Beau believes everyone has the right to live a fruitful life.

Back in the day, Beau was a talented junior sportsman, particularly in Australia Rules and athletics. Now, Beau is a Pride of Australia medal recipient and has won a national hand cycling championship.

Beau loves his family, especially his two children. He also loves to surf on a powered surfboard which is controlled via Bluetooth around his wrist!

Dani Leever
Melbourne, VIC

 

Dani is a writer, DJ and youth mental health advocate. They’re passionate about advocating for young people experiencing mental illness, in particular trans and gender diverse young people. They aim to work toward creating safe spaces, breaking down stigma while and speaking out against issues impacting the LGBTIQA+ community.

Dani attributes a lot of their self-love and strength to the close, diverse and accepting queer community that they have around them. They really think everybody deserves the same community support; where like-minded and accepting people can hold each other’s experiences.

Dani has lived with anxiety and OCD since they were young, and has also experienced depression and dissociation. Growing up, Dani felt isolated in their struggles because of the stigma surrounding mental illness and barriers to accessing safe and productive support. They feel that finding the right supportive health care professionals, open conversations with friends and family and connecting with hobbies and passions are all key in maintaining their mental health.

After being a part of the headspace Youth National Reference Group, Dani hopes to continue using their voice to break down stigma of mental-ill health and increase self-care conversations in their new role as an Australian Youth Advocate for Mental Health.

In Dani’s spare time they enjoy looking after their many indoor plants, reading, listening to podcasts, watching videos of golden retrievers on the internet and DJing great disco bangers. They love writing and have been published in JUNKEE, SBS sexuality, Pedestrian.tv and more. 

Hannah Godfrey
Hobart, TAS

   

Hannah is passionate about breaking down mental health stigma and raising awareness especially around eating disorders and the LGBTQIA+ community.   

Hannah has faced ongoing mental health challenges since the age of 12. She has had experiences of depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. Upon joining the headspace Hobart youth reference group in 2015, she realised the importance of helping young people understand how to look after their mental health and seek appropriate support that is the best fit for them.

As an Australian Youth Advocate for Mental Health, Hannah hopes to empower young people to seek appropriate support, speak up about their lived experience and reduce stigma on a national scale.

When Hannah isn’t advocating for youth mental health, she is either watching Grey’s Anatomy and Wentworth repeats, having Disney sing-alongs with her family or hidden away with a good book.

Harry Iles-Mann
Sydney, NSW

    
Harry’s ideal future for health in Australia is one in which the public are health literate, and enjoy access to health care services which equitably support and enable their own health and wellbeing.

Harry has experienced mental ill-health for most of his life. It’s this lived experience of the ways which mental and chronic physical health issues interact and overlap that really drives Harry to try and make a positive contribution to this space. He is especially passionate about advocating for other young people living with complex chronic health issues.

In his role as an Australian Youth Advocate for Mental Health, Harry hopes to bring a change in culture that removes stigma and barriers for young people trying to manage and navigate their physical and mental health challenges. He hopes to work together with the nation to redefine the expectation which society places on individuals.

When he is not advocating for mental health, Harry enjoys getting out into the world with his motorcycle and camera to explore different places and perspectives. He’s an avid reader, and uses reading or physical exercise as ways to enjoy himself and decompress. He is also currently completing a law and philosophy degree, which he hopes will strengthen his ability to advocate effectively and compassionately for himself and others.

Jacob Corpus
Broome, WA

  

Jacob was raised in Broome and is a proud descendant of the Yawuru and Nyul-Nyul tribes of the Kimberly region.

Jacob has been a strong youth advocate since being elected by his peers to voice the report from the 2017 Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Forum.

Since then he has been trained to deliver a range of programs surrounding health and wellbeing to local service providers and community members through his position at the Kimberly Aboriginal Medical Service in the Social and Emotional Wellbeing unit.

His proudest achievement so far is the coordination the two Empowered Young Leaders Forums in the West and East Kimberley with the aim of amplifying the voice of his peers and highlighting the strengths and resilience that we know already exist.

Jacob is passionate about improving health and creating opportunities for young people in the Kimberly region. He strongly believes that our stories need to be told and voices need to be heard so that we can all work together to shape a positive future for the next generation.

When he is not advocating for youth mental health, Jacob enjoys getting out of town, soaking up the sun and breathing in the fresh air along the beautiful coastline of the Kimberley. He also loves learning about history and culture, shooting some hoops and going fishing at any opportunity.

Jess Revens
Melbourne, VIC

   

Jess is passionate about raising awareness around complex mental illness, comorbidity and suicide prevention.

Jess has experience of recovering from Anorexia Nervosa and currently lives with Bipolar, Complex PTSD and Anxiety. Jess likes to go for walks, write poetry and hang out with animals as self-care.

In their role as an Australian Youth Advocate for Mental Health, Jess hopes to place focus on complex mental illnesses, and the links between trauma and life circumstances in suicide.

Jess became involved in youth mental health through projects with Melbourne City Mission’s Youth Action Group which then lead them to completing training from Batyr and joining the Peer Ambassador Program at SANE Australia.

When Jess isn’t blogging about mental health, they enjoy going to musicals and the footy with their long tern partner.

Jamie Sea
Melbourne, VIC

       

Jamie is a passionate advocate for stigma reduction around complex mental illness and emotional expression. They are particularly interested in mental health in the LGBTQIA+ community and encouraging young people to seek help and talk about their stories.

Jamie grew up a very emotional young person, in a culture that told them to suppress and ignore feelings. This stigma had a negative impact on their health and played a big part in their troubles expressing their need for help as complex illness emerged in early adulthood.

In their role as an Australian Youth Advocate for Mental Health, Jamie is motivated by their experiences to create a culture in which everyone is comfortable expressing the whole spectrum of human emotion in all parts of their lives.

When Jamie isn’t advocating for mental health, they are buried in books about identity and history and hanging out with their beloved cat. Strangely, Jamie isn’t allergic to cats but instead is allergic to elephants!

Josh Di Nucci
Perth, WA

     

Josh is passionate about making a change in the lives of those subject to stigma. He draws on candid experiences from his sporting career and personal life aiming to help empower, motivate, and inspire others.

Josh has a lived experience of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). After learning how OCD was controlling his life, he made it his mission to live a meaningful and purposeful life while managing his mental illness.

In his role as an Australian Youth Advocate for Mental Health, Josh wishes to plant seeds of change within society about the impact that mental illnesses can have on someone’s wellbeing. He loves engaging in positive conversations around mental health with the hope that it may save someone’s life.

Josh is an elite men’s artistic gymnast, and when he isn’t in the gym training or advocating for youth mental health, he enjoys knitting. Josh uses knitting as a mindfulness technique and also has a keen interest in Eurovision song contest.

Josh Muir
Ballarat, VIC

      
Josh is passionate about suicide prevention, mental health awareness and creativity. 

A Barkindji, Yorta Yorta and Gunditjmara man, Josh was diagnosed with anxiety in his late adolescence. His anxiety came from drug induced psychosis, manic depression and paranoia. Josh used art to manage his anxiety and heal his emotional status.

In his role as an Australian Youth Advocate for Mental Health, Josh hopes to help young people establish their sense of belonging identity as well as strengthen their cultural values.

When he is not practicing art or advocating for youth mental health, Josh enjoys taking pictures and making video art. He is a very creative person and finds peace with art.

Josh’s digital artwork style is characterized by strong imagery, pattern work and kaleidoscope colouring and he has exhibited across the country. Josh’s work ‘Still Here’ was projected onto the façade of the National Gallery of Victoria in 2016 for White Night. Josh also recently won the prestigious 2019 Rockingham Art Award in Western Australia for his artwork Ocean Explorer in the Indigenous category.

Kara Farrell
Broome, WA

  

Kara is passionate about youth mental health, personal growth and supporting the development of others around her.

Kara has a lived experience of depression. During this time, Kara found she wasn’t taking care of herself and this led her to her experiencing negative and suicidal thoughts and drug use. Despite these challenges, Kara’s commitment to improving her mental health and wellbeing has helped her learn new ways of coping through tough times. She says that through the adversity she has faced, she is becoming the person she believes she was always meant to be.  

In her role as an Australian Youth Advocate for Mental Health, Kara hopes to reduce the stigma around mental health and increase help seeking behaviour among young Aboriginal people. She wants to empower young people in her community, and hopes this can help young people to live to their full potential.

Kara enjoys spending time with her family who live in Perth. Kara finds spending time with her family and maintaining connection is a great way to maintain her mental health. When she does see her family, she enjoys her mum’s cauliflower cheese!

Niharika Hiremath
Melbourne, VIC

   

Niharika’s passion lies in reducing stigma around mental illness, especially in culturally and linguistically diverse communities.  

Niharika had her own experience of depression and anxiety in 2015 that was amplified by family issues and a relationship breakdown. Although it has been an ongoing journey, Niharika strongly advocates for self-care and understanding for others. This has allowed Niharika to build up her own resilience and support systems over time.

In her new position as an Australian Youth Advocate for Mental Health, Niharika hopes to help support culturally and linguistically diverse communities around mental health and wellbeing whilst fostering open communication and strength in these communities.

Niharika is also a National Mental Health Commissioner and Biomedical Science/Commerce graduate and is currently studying psychology. In her spare time, she enjoys singing, painting and travelling. She hopes to visit 25 countries by the time she’s 25 (she is on 24!).

Scott Wilson
Broome, WA

 

Scott is a Gooniyandi man from Muladja community, but grew up with the Yawuru people in Broome, Western Australia.

Scott believes the youth mental health sector should be holistic in its approach when supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing; recognising the connections and interactions between the different elements of one’s life. Scott’s family has been a major support for his wellbeing throughout his journey, who have helped him to build resilience and handle tough times.

In his role as an Australian Youth Advocate for Mental health, he wants to connect to people, and link them to services that help improve their quality of life.

While Scott was growing up, he received little information about the mental health services available to him. He wants to address this barrier so that young people have the knowledge to seek support for their wellbeing. He also wants young people to learn the importance of looking after themselves so that they can handle life’s challenges.

In Scott’s free time, he is working on the production of his own comedy cartoon series. He also enjoys listening to motivational speakers such as Les Brown and Tony Robbins. To maintain his mental health, Scott likes going to the gym, collecting vintage comic books, and taking the time to go for a walk and discover new places, and spaces.