‘It needs to change’: Young men step up for mental health
Harrison Vale and Austin Humphreys have had their fair share of mental health struggles, but it was yet another friend's suicide that pushed them to step up and make a difference.
The young Sunshine Coast men have started a new initiative to break the stigma surrounding men's mental health and reduce Australia's devastating suicide statistics.
Blokes Prosper was launched on Wednesday and has already gained a staggering amount of support among the Coast community.
Mr Vale, 19, and Mr Humphreys, 21, hosted their first "Blokes Walk" on Sunday at Moffat Beach as part of the initiative - a weekly event they hope to make nationwide.
"We want to build family. We want to build a platform that is a space to come and connect," Mr Vale said.
The friends had been wanting to start a platform to help men in their community for some time, but the death of mutual friend Eli Smith made the "need for change" more urgent than ever.
"He was a fun, outgoing bloke. He was a popular bloke, loved his motocross, loved going out with the boys," Mr Humphreys said.
"He was caring."
Mr Vale said the stigma surrounding men's mental health had to end, and Blokes Prosper aimed to encourage men to speak up about their struggles.
"It needs to change. We've lost countless friends and family members this year alone," he said.
"We feel that a big part of what's happening … it's the stigma on men being able to speak out."
According to Lifeline, eight Australians die by suicide every day. Seventy-five per cent of those who take their own life are male.
Mr Vale and Mr Humphreys hope to create a welcoming platform to anyone seeking support, from directing men to support services to simply being a shoulder to cry on.
In less than a week, Blokes Prosper has gained more than 2000 followers on both its Instagram and Facebook pages.
Mr Humphreys also said they'd been inundated with men messaging them to open up about their own experiences with mental health.
"Some of them are even telling us their stories about (thinking of) taking their own life, and how much (Blokes Prosper) means to them," he said.
"By everyone talking to us and sharing this, it's just given us more fuel to proceed and keep pushing forward."
A GoFundMe they set up for Eli's family has already raised more than $4000. To donate, click here.
If you're in need of support, please call Lifeline on 131 114.