We know the fight is real on the Beaches against youth suicide – but did you know that it’s also young adults leading the charge to prevent it? Be truly inspired by the team behind One Eighty, who are literally saving local lives…
In 2017, a group of young adults from Avalon identified the need for a more visible mental health support network on the Northern Beaches, so they created an initiative which they aptly named ‘One Eighty’, to signify the about-face that was necessary. Fast-forward to 2019, and co-founder Paris Jeffcoat, 24, has recently been awarded ‘Young Citizen of the Year’ by Northern Beaches Council in acknowledgement of her ground-breaking idea, and One Eighty is making some serious headway.
With the goal of a ‘future free from youth suicide’, One Eighty has a new approach to the issue of mental health, particularly for young males who, as it has widely been reported, are most susceptible to suicide. The not-for-profit group facilitates regular opportunities for community connection, beginning with their popular “Open Up” sessions. Samantha Callender, also 24, and the Chairperson and Chief Operating Officer at One Eighty, explains that the emphasis of Open Up is on “peer support – not advice”, however there are connections with professional services available if needed.
Run in a peer-to-peer group format, there are separate fortnightly Open Up sessions for 18 -29 year olds and over 30’s at strategic locations across the Northern Beaches. Everyone is welcome at the gatherings which have a hands-on approach. Stigma is left well and truly outside the room, allowing for frank and open conversation to take place. Young people can meet and take comfort in the sense that they are not alone in their journey. There is not necessarily a set theme for discussions, but attendees can suggest topics important to them either out loud or anonymously through the ‘suggestion bowl’.
One Eighty’s Community Support program is the latest initiative to be implemented and builds on the weekly meetings through a series of talks, workshops and classes which seek to provide regular opportunities for young people in the community to connect with each other. The program promotes inclusion and healthy living while providing a fun social outlet away from the context of alcohol and drugs. To date there have been creative writing workshops, beach cleans, guest speakers on topics of specific interest and run-club meets – with a team currently training for this year’s Pub 2 Pub Charity Run on August 25. Fittingly, One Eighty has also been selected as one of the event beneficiaries for 2019. “We are aiming to have the largest Pub 2 Pub team entry and it’s not too late to sign up and join in!” says Samantha.
Aside from community support, there are also school programs being developed and implemented by the group in the form of practical workshops, as guided by the Student Representative Council of Local High Schools to ensure that their needs are best met.
It may have begun as a conversation spurred by multiple youth suicides within the community, but in a short time One Eighty is achieving some amazing results, and attracting attention far beyond the Beaches. Samantha says that they are “conscious of a slow and steady approach to growth because they want to ensure they have the right ‘product’ before expanding their programs to other geographic areas”. There are also some exciting new high-profile ambassadors to be announced soon.
Anyone wishing to get involved and/or donate can do so online at www.oneeighty.org.au. You can also volunteer as an Open Up facilitator, and there’s some great merchandise for purchase. Follow One Eighty here F: https://www.facebook.com/oneeightyinc/
Story by: Jade Fernandes Main image credit: Max Harrison