In the next 48 hours, a young man will take his own life.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for young men in Australia. Donate now and your donations will be matched by LifeSpan Financial Planning.
Top Blokes Foundation gives boys the skills to improve their mental health. Our mentors work with young men to create a culture that not only let's them know it's okay to ask for help, but also shows them how they can do it to prevent poor mental health and suicide.
Please, can you donate today to give more boys the skills to prevent youth suicide?
Top Blokes mentors, like Adam, do this on a daily basis. Through sharing their own experiences of dealing with issues like mental health and suicide, young men feel empowered to do the same. Adam recalls one of his stories that particularly resonates with boys he mentors.
“From the age of 3, my nickname was ‘shadow’, because I used to follow dad around and do whatever he did. I was that kid who had the toy lawn mower to follow him when he mowed the lawn. If he was washing the car, I had to be there. We were inseparable.
Like many in my hometown, Dad worked at a steelworks company. His company went through restructures - typical of that entire industry - and it was a very tense, uncertain time. With all the pay cuts, he started drinking heavily. Every time someone got the axe, dad thought it would be him next. He went through an extremely stressful time and, on top of that, had to deal with undiagnosed mental illnesses.
This is a shot of me and my dad on my first day of school. We don't have too many photos from the past, but you can see dad in his steelworks gear, after he'd finished his shift. - Adam
He’d go to the pub every afternoon. And every afternoon, I’d pick him up and drive him home for dinner. After dinner, he’d keep at it and end up outside on his own, smoking and drinking. He was getting angrier and angrier. I knew if things were going to change, I'd need to speak up.
One night, I finally approached him in the backyard.
"How much longer are you going to be out here by yourself?"
He said, "You won't have to worry about it next week."
"Are you thinking about taking your own life?"
"Yes," he admitted, as he broke down.
It was the first time I saw my father cry. The first time I saw him open up emotionally, ever.
The next morning, he talked to me about everything. He told me about his struggles with anxiety on the job, his pay cuts, the increasing debt burden he was feeling due to the mortgage. He’d lost his own dad at 17, and had always been told to ‘man up’, and do whatever it took to be the breadwinner. As a result, he self-medicated, and it nearly drove him to suicide.
Dad suffered a lifetime of depression and anxiety because he was never given the tools to manage it. He was taught, like me, that real men don’t show emotion, that it’s weak to ask for help."
These are the messages that we need to challenge, for the sake of our young men. What they learn now is what they'll carry into adulthood.
Through Top Blokes, you can ensure a young man learns the tools and information he needs to get help. You can give him a peer mentor who cares and the opportunity to learn it’s okay to ask for support before it’s too late.
"After that night, dad went and saw a doctor. He got on a mental health plan and started seeing a psychologist. Now, Dad speaks up if something is happening. If I ask him how he's getting on, he stops and we have a conversation. There's been a real change.
When I started at Top Blokes, I know he didn’t think I had a real job. He was a factory worker. My brother was a tradie. That was man’s work. My work wasn’t ‘a real man’s job’ to him. Now, he’s heard the stories and he knows the real impact we have. He says he's proud of me, and I know he means it."
My dad and I bonded over rugby. This is us outside my local club. - Adam
With his dad’s permission, Adam tells this story to the boys he mentors. Through our mentors sharing their experiences, young men not only learn the importance of reaching out, but are given examples of how to do it. And the value is seen when boys begin to ask for help.
“Last month, during one of our mental health workshops, one of the boys, James* told me that it was the 5-month anniversary of his friend’s suicide. He was in a dark place, and this was his plea for help.
I kept him talking. I don’t know what would have happened if we stopped, but I could see in his face that he needed someone then and there. James opened up and told me he hadn’t been speaking to anyone, but that he used to see a psychologist. With his permission, we told his mum and booked in some sessions with the school counsellor to help him improve his mental health.
We kept checking in with him in our workshops, and it was fantastic to see him becoming healthier. Shortly after James went through our program, he was announced as school captain. In his acceptance speech, he credited Top Blokes with helping his transformation. It was incredibly moving.”
Top Blokes mentors like Adam can support more boys to improve their mental health. An independent EY study found that boys who go through a Top Blokes program are 4 times better off than boys who don’t.
We teach them about alcohol and drugs in a way that they understand. We coach them on how to manage their anger. We help them define their own ideas of masculinity and that it’s okay to show emotions and to seek support. Perhaps most importantly, we speak to them from experience.
“I see the results every day. I want us to reach more kids because these issues are better prevented early in life,” says Adam.
We can’t do it without community support. We need your help to make sure boys become safe and healthy men.
Your donation directly funds mentoring programs that help young men develop the courage and confidence to speak up and ask for help.
Please donate today and help save the lives of our young men.
*names have been changed to protect the identities of the people involved.
Donations will be matched by CEO Eugene Ardino and LifeSpan FInancial Planning up to $5,000.