This week, 1000 Gold Coast high school students attended a stigma busting mental health workshop series, co-delivered by headspace Southport and nationally recognised mental health and suicide prevention initiative, The Champions. This was the first time this innovative program was presented in Queensland – made possible with funding from the Gold Coast City Council and leadership by Councillor Brooke Patterson, of Division 6.
Known for its highly effective results, The Champions workshop was developed by advocate and educator, Nic Newling. It’s based on the belief that real conversations are contagious. By sharing stories from his lived experience of a mood disorder and losing his brother to suicide in high school, Newling captivates students by broadening their understanding of mental health issues and suicide, and challenges negative perceptions of mental illness and help-seeking.
Three workshops took place over three days, at Benowa SHS (February 5), Southport SHS (February 6), and Merrimac SHS (February 7). It was delivered to over 300 students at each high school in Years 10 and 11. The goal of the workshops being to break down the three biggest barriers that young people face when it comes to accessing professional mental health support: feeling stigma or shame, concerns around confidentiality, and not knowing where to go for help.
“Schools are the perfect environment to engage young people with mental health and suicide prevention programs. We have a captive audience to work with who are primed to learn and are at the age of development where these messages are super relevant to them personally. We’re also able to provide something a bit more captivating than the average maths class which means students sit up and pay attention pretty quickly,” said Newling.
At each high school, students were focused and engaged as Newling openly shared his lived experience and mental health stories. After the presentation, a lively question-and-answer period provoked honest questions and meaningful insights for students and educators in the room.
One student saying that, “It was really inspirational,” and another commenting, “It was so different to other workshops on this topic and really relatable”.
headspace Southport clinicians were also present to educate students on how to access its free, inclusive, and confidential mental health support.
The lead agency for headspace Southport is Lives Lived Well. In September 2023, The Champions approached the not-for-profit organisation as a partner to bring this high-value program to Queensland for the first time. Recognising the importance of proactive mental health awareness, Councillor Brooke Patterson, Councillor for Division 6, awarded headspace Southport funding to bring The Champions to local high schools in the district. The funding awarded was from the City of Gold Coast’s Discretionary Grants Program, a program designed to support community organisations to meet changing community, social, environmental, and economic objectives, intended to benefit a particular divisional area.
Lives Lived Well CEO Mitchell Giles expressed gratitude, saying, “Our sincere thanks go to Gold Coast City Council for supporting this collaborative initiative and helping us raise awareness of mental health.”
“With one in four young Australians experiencing a mental health issue each year, the need has never been greater to increase awareness of mental health, encourage destigmatising conversations, and ensure young people know how to access mental health support when they need it.”
To access free, inclusive, and confidential mental health support, young people can reach out to headspace Southport at 07 5509 5900 or visit headspace.org.au/headspace-centres/southport/ for more information about the services offered.
For Lives Lived Well media enquiries please contact:
Lisa Maynard, Lives Lived Well, Marketing and Communications Manager, 0428 433 572, [email protected]