Two friends unite in fundraising plan for World Mental Health Day

A friendly gesture: Alana White and Georgia Selmon are planning a fundraiser to raise money for Beyond Blue, after their friend lost his life in May this year. Picture: John Veage
A friendly gesture: Alana White and Georgia Selmon are planning a fundraiser to raise money for Beyond Blue, after their friend lost his life in May this year. Picture: John Veage

At 20 years of age, Tom should have been starting the next chapter of his life.

But the young man from Menai who had struggled with mental health could not see a way out of the dark.

Sadly, he lost his life. But those close to him want to help make a change, and hopefully help save someone else.

Today (October 10) is World Mental Health Day. October is also Mental Health Month in Australia.

Two of Tom's friends, Georgia Selmon and Alana White, both 21 years of age, are organising a fundraiser for Beyond Blue.

"We always wanted to do something like this," Georgia said. "Mental heatlh is a huge issue and I think it gets swept under the rug.

"We've always been strong supporters and this gave us extra motivation that something really needs to change.

"We are very passionate about it," Alana said. "We don't want any other families or friends to go through it."

The girls describe their close friend as a "larrikin who made everyone laugh."

"He always put everyone else before himself," Georgia said. "He made his own rules, and ran his life how he wanted to. He also loved his ute."

Inspiring change: Georgia Selmon and Tom.

Inspiring change: Georgia Selmon and Tom.

They said Tom suffered from depression and anxiety, but "wasn't really open about it".

"But he had support - everyone was there for him," Georgia said. "Sometimes it's the most outgoing ones who appear the most confident, but struggle.

"Social media and self-image is a huge influence. Lots of people compare themselves to others."

The two friends who are also next door neighbours, hope their cause will lift awareness and promote open conversation.

They also want to see more volunteers available to help people who "don't feel comfortable going to family".

"It's about having that outside party where they can feel safe without judgement," Georgia said.

"I feel there's still fear around it, or people don't know how to talk about it. There's a lack of understanding. Mental health is a chemical imbalance."

The girls plan on hosting a trivia night on February 1, with a Sutherland Shire venue yet to be chosen.

"We'd love to raise $10,000 - that's our goal," Alana said.

Mental health issues and thoughts of suicide accounted for 59 per cent of all contacts made last year by children and young people to Kids Helpline.

Yourtown Chief Executive Officer Tracy Adams says each year there is an increase in mental health, emotional well-being and suicide-related concerns.

"Adolescents with mental health problems report higher rates of suicidal ideation and other risky behaviours." she said.

"Our concern is that this may be just the tip of the iceberg as only a small percentage of kids actually seek help. We really need to encourage more help-seeking among children and young people, particularly among boys."

Australia Bureau of Statistics data shows that 458 children and young people aged under 25 years died by suicide last year.

"One in four people aged 16 - 24 experiences some form of mental illness each year and three-quarters of all mental illness manifests in people under the age of 25," Ms Adams said.

"But there's still a lot of stigma and confusion around the topic, young people are feeling isolated, alienated and extremely sad, that's where early intervention and accessing crucial help 24/7 with trained counsellors at no cost can help.

"Increasingly, young people are calling with an urgent concern such as suicidal thoughts. This form of teen help-seeking can be accessed via telephone call, text message or online chat, with web chats more comfortable for some young people. As a result, we are seeing longer counselling sessions and increasing numbers of young people who require regular support."

"The growing numbers of mental health and suicide-related concerns is disturbing but it is a positive sign that many young people are now seeking help to manage these issues."

Beyond Blue 1300 224 636

Lifeline 13 11 14