Youth National Reference Group
The hY NRG team is made up of a group of people who are passionate about making a difference in the lives of young people. Hailing from all over Australia and from a diverse set of backgrounds, many of the hY NRG team have experienced their own struggles but overcome them to become advocates of youth mental health.
hY NRG makes sure that any new initiative from headspace will make a positive difference in the lives of young people, and the resources headspace receive from government and corporate partners are put to the best use.
In her position as a headspace Youth National Reference Group member, she hopes to connect with the community, raise awareness about youth mental health and also hopes to increase engagement with CALD young people.
Apeksha has a lived experience of mental ill health and through the support of friends and family, along with ongoing education from headspace, she has learnt strategies to maintain a healthy headspace. Some of the things Apeksha does is listening to calming music, practicing mindfulness, positive self-talk and breathing exercises.
Apeksha enjoys building mental health literacy in her community and regularly attends schools to give presentations about youth mental health.
In her free time, Apeksha enjoys listening to music, watching movies, and spending time with loved ones.
She is also passionate about her food! Her favourite burger place knows her order before she even walks in the door (that’s a beautiful thing!).
Bianca is passionate about removing stigma around mental ill health especially within Indigenous communities. Bianca wants to have conversations with young people, and raise awareness around youth mental health.
After attending headspace Broome Bianca learnt ways to manage her mental health which also helped her to move forward working with headspace to remove stigma and educate young people about their wellbeing.
In her position as a headspace Youth National Reference Group member, Bianca wants to use her lived experience of mental ill health to advocate for and raise awareness for other young indigenous people.
As well as having a passion to help others, Bianca enjoys eating a fresh oyster or two and has a healthy obsession with Beyoncé.
Chantel has experienced symptoms of poor mental health since she was younger. In her culture, mental health wasn’t discussed at home and it wasn’t talked about at school.
She began accessing services in New South Wales where she learnt the skills to better manage her mental health.
In her position as a headspace Youth National Reference Group member, Chantel aims to use her personal experience of mental ill health, and what she has learnt over the years, to help the wider community. Chantel wants to be part of a movement where mental health is seen just as important as physical health and where people are not ashamed to seek help.
Chantel describes herself as a golden retriever – she is a big softie, approachable, and eats and sheds a lot! Being an animal lover, she has found companionship with her own dog who has been an incredible partner throughout her health journey.
Chantel believes that if you’re in a position to, you should try and give back so that the cycle of humanity can continue.
Wanting to be actively involved in her community, she joined her local centre’s Youth Advisory Council at the age of 15 and has been a dedicated member ever since.
In her position as a headspace National Youth Reference Group member, Emily wants to make a difference in the lives of young people across Australia and the communities that support them through education and stigma reduction.
Growing up with a chronic illness, Emily has recognised the importance of looking after your physical and mental health, and how both of these things complement each other.
As well as working as a Peer Educator at the Broome Recovery College, she also sits on a number of councils, boards and advisory groups locally and nationally within the Mental Health and Community sectors. Emily has a secret obsession with wax seals!
Emma is passionate about breaking down the stigma around mental health issues particularly through sharing lived experiences. She believes in educating health service providers, schools, family and friends about mental health and its complexities, especially in rural and remote areas.
Emma has had mental health challenges since she was 12 years old specifically with experiences of anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and an eating disorder.
After struggling to find appropriate services, Emma became passionate about what headspace does and what a difference it can make in the lives of young people. She has found that sport and exercise played a significant role in her recovery and wants to encourage young people to live a mentally and physically healthy life.
In her position as a headspace Youth National Reference Group member, Emma wants to promote a holistic approach to mental illness, educate health professionals and communities in rural/remote areas and work on programs to support young people experiencing severe/complex mental illness.
Emma is currently studying sport and exercise science and aspires to work in youth mental health recovery. As well as these passions, Emma adores horse riding and could ride a horse before she could walk!
Fox had experiences with anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), but for a long time didn’t understand what they were experiencing. Seeking counselling helped Fox to realise they weren’t alone, and to gain the skills to cope with their mental health.
Fox practices self-care by focusing on the basics: getting a good sleep, maintaining a healthy diet and exercising. A big focus for Fox is music. Being a musician, Fox enjoys jamming out on the guitar when they need to clear their mind.
Coming from headspace Canberra and now being a part of the headspace Youth National Reference Group, Fox hopes to challenge the stigmas that discourage help-seeking and to show other young people that it is okay to seek support.
Fox enjoys writing, story-telling and volunteering in their local community. They also have a rare condition called synaesthesia which means they see numbers, letters, words and some sounds as colours. This is where Fox’s creative flare comes from.
Mohammed Hadi Rahimi, also known as Hadi, is passionate about community health and wellbeing initiatives, community development and working with multicultural young people in Australia. Hadi is a refugee who came to Australia under the Humanitarian Settlement Program.
Hadi has direct experience of suicide in his community and during this time didn’t know how to respond. Whilst studying social work at University he also experienced mental health difficulties. At this time, Hadi reached out to headspace Armadale to talk through his challenges and learn ways to manage his anxiety.
In his position as a headspace Youth National Reference Group member, Hadi wants to empower and stand-up to be a part of the mental health movement. He believes youth mental health is becoming increasingly important in our society and feels he can help young people by sharing his own experiences.
Apart from being involved in his community, Hadi is an extremely resilient person and enjoys art, motivational writing and public speaking. He uses his creative talents to represent life in an imaginative way.
Hadi says that he wants young people to find peace, stability and belonging when connecting with other young people.
“Find that inner peace and belonging within yourself”
Harrison experienced a prolonged period of severe depression from age 14 onwards. This included thoughts of suicide and led Harrison to use alcohol and other drugs. During this time, Harrison also had difficulty making friends, which added to his mental health challenges.
Harrison started accessing services at headspace Meadowbrook in 2017 after years of difficulty and learnt ways to help manage his mental health.
In his position as a headspace Youth National Reference Group member, Harrison wants to encourage young people who are suffering a mental illness to find solace in exercise. He believes exercise plays a massive role in maintaining and managing a healthy headspace.
Practicing what he preaches, Harrison enjoys exercising and participates in weightlifting, rock climbing and running. In his spare time, when not exercising, you will find him eating, mainly ramen.
Growing up, Kay experienced being bullied and suffered severe anxiety. It wasn’t until she started volunteering with headspace Bundaberg where she started to gain confidence and realise her potential.
In her position as a headspace Youth National Reference Group member, Kay aims to encourage more young people to listen to themselves when they know something is wrong and to seek help. Kay also hopes to use this opportunity to learn even more about youth mental health and grow with the other members of the group too.
Kay identifies as part of the LGBTIQA+ community and has helped her headspace centre to develop their LGBTIQA+ youth group – BRITE.
When Kay isn’t studying or helping young people, she can be found reading, taking photos or playing video games.
She has an obsession with Harley Quinn and loves everything Marvel and DC.
Kyra’s passion lies with mental health but more specifically, mental health and help seeking in regional areas. They also advocate for individuality, queer visibility and artistic expression to help maintain a healthy headspace.
Kyra’s ongoing mental health journey has been challenging. After more than 10 years of help seeking, they were correctly diagnosed following continuous battles with a flawed mental health system.
Through their local centre in Mount Gambier, Kyra was able to further their advocacy work through various art exhibitions, activities and campaigns along with other likeminded individuals to increase awareness of headspace in the community.
As a member of the headspace Youth National Reference Group, Kyra hopes to bring a regional perspective to group discussions while soaking up the expertise of other members.
Aside from enjoying a trip to the op shop, grooving to 80s jams and cycling, Kyra loves to bring a smile to the dial often by singing everything they say!
Maddy started experiencing mental health challenges in her early teen years. Over those years she was bullied at school and did not have the information she needed to reach out and seek help. Maddy also has experiences of self-harm.
Maddy started accessing services at headspace Ipswich in 2014 and began learning about how they could manage their mental health and wellbeing practicing self-care. One of ways Maddy does this is by listening to music and going for walks.
In their position as a headspace Youth National Reference Group members, Maddy wants to use their lived experience of mental ill health to be a role model for other young people going through a challenging time.
As a member of the LGBTIQA+ community, Maddy really cares about making sure same-sex attracted and gender diverse young people are heard.
As well as having a passion to help others, Maddy enjoys watching NRL whilst sipping on a lovely orange juice.
Madeleine understands the challenges young people often face when trying to access mental health support that is age appropriate and affordable. She is a passionate advocate for young people with complex needs and who often fall through the cracks of the mental health system.
Madeleine’s mental health journey was long and complex. From adolescence into young adulthood, she has had good and bad experiences of receiving support from a wide range of mental health care services.
Madeleine became involved in headspace Greensborough’s Youth Advisory Committee in 2018. In this role she has worked to promote and create awareness of youth mental health in her local area.
As part of the headspace Youth National Reference Group, Madeleine hopes to use her lived experience to provide her own insight and feedback on what she believes are the gaps in Australia’s mental health care system and to advocate for positive change at a systemic level.
Madeleine has just completed a degree in Complementary Medicine and is now undertaking a degree in Occupational Therapy. She hopes to work in mental health as an occupational therapist in the future.
As well as advocating for youth mental health, Madeleine enjoys to tap dance!
Matthew is passionate about improving the mental health system particularly for young LGBTIQA+ people. He is looking forward to working with the hY NRG team to help young people who are experiencing mental ill health, and their family, by improving access to support and assistance services during times of need.
Matthew has experienced mental health challenges since 2015 and through this became aware of the presence of mental ill health in young people. He also has experience helping close friends and family through similar issues.
In his position as a headspace Youth National Reference Group member, Matthew wants to use his lived experience to improve the effectiveness and responsiveness of support systems. He also hopes to encourage a greater representation of male counsellors, assist young LGBTQ+ and promote better understanding and treatment of eating disorders.
As well as having a passion to help others, Matthew enjoys swimming in the ocean and when he was younger, had a strange obsession with vegemite and bacon sandwiches!
Matt started experiencing mental health challenges in his early to mid-teens, including depression and anxiety, as well as difficult experiences questioning his sexuality and gender. He fell through the cracks of the mental health system, and did not have access to clinical supports when he most needed them. He has since started accessing services at his local headspace centres in Gosford and Lake Haven, and has learnt ways to help manage his mental health challenges in order to ensure his mind stays healthy going forward.
In his position as a headspace Youth National Reference Group member, Matt wants to use his lived experience of mental ill health to give a voice to young people across the nation, and to empower other young people experiencing mental health challenges. He wants to work to ensure all young people have access to the care and supports they need, and feel comfortable to seek help. He also wants to help build a culture of mental health literacy among young people and in the community.
Matt identifies as a member of the LGBTIQA+ community and is passionate about empowering the voices of same-sex attracted and gender diverse young people. He wants to promote understanding of the experiences of LGBTIQA+ young people within the health profession and in the community. He also wants to ensure LGBTIQA+ young people feel safe and accepted, and feel comfortable accessing health services and seeking help.
As well as having a passion for youth mental health, Matt is a whiz when it comes to computers. He has been coding as a hobby since he was little and although it would appear to be a highly technical hobby, for Matt, it’s also a creative outlet and a means of self-expression.
Mehmet is passionate about helping young people with their mental health who come from different backgrounds and religious faiths. He also has a keen interest in the area of de-stigmatisation of mental ill health and improving access to services for rural and remote areas.
Mehmet joined headspace in 2015 as part of headspace Adelaide’s Youth Ambassador Program. This role allowed him to understand the importance of social and emotional learning and building positive habits to promote a healthy headspace.
Mehmet is keen to help all young Australians but has a particular interest in addressing the barriers that newly arrived families and young Muslims face when accessing mental health services. Coming from an immigrant background he knows the difficulties that may arise resulting from stigma.
In his position as a headspace Youth National Reference Group member, Mehmet wants to help young people who come from varying backgrounds and faiths to feel confident in accessing services that will assist them in reaching their mental health goals.
As well as helping young people with their mental health, Mehmet enjoys keeping active on the basketball court and in the gym.
Coming from a Turkish background, Mehmet didn’t learn to speak English until he was 5 years old. He loves his cars, but even more than that, he loves his kebabs.
Mike has experienced both social and generalised anxiety, depression and panic attacks. Initially, Mike found it hard to reach out to people about his mental health difficulties because he was concerned no one would understand what he was experiencing or would think he was making it up.
He started accessing services at headspace Fremantle and found immense support. With the support of headspace services, Mike received advice on how he can reach out to his friends for support. He is currently managing his wellbeing with support of friends and a psychologist.
In his position as a headspace Youth National Reference Group member, Mike wants to support other young people to have a positive experience in their working lives, to make sure they know their rights, and can advocate for themselves. He believes work and study are a large part of young Australians lives and will help them to live a healthy life.
As well as studying political science and employment relations, Mike wants to become a psephologist and work in electoral research.
Through her own experience and with the support of headspace, Nicola has learnt the importance of help seeking and self-care to achieve and maintain good mental health.
Nicola has been volunteering with her local youth reference group in Nundah since 2018. It was the first place she felt she could be herself without judgment in a supportive environment. When she saw the opportunity to join the headspace Youth National Reference Group, Nicola thought it would be a great way to work with other young people, learn new skills and make a positive impact on youth mental health.
Maintaining physical health is also important for Nicola, she enjoys swimming training and is working towards her hundredth Parkrun - a collection of 5-kilometre running events that take place every Saturday morning at over 1,400 locations in 23 countries across five continents.
Nicole is extremely passionate about youth mental health, specifically early education around emotions in schools and how people can be helped who experience anxiety and depression. Nicole also cares deeply about helping the community in suicide prevention.
Nicole’s journey has been filled with many challenges. During her teenage and young adult years she experienced bullying, severe anxiety, and depression. During this time, Nicole found it hard to leave the house and felt lost for a while.
She started accessing services at age 15 and through this learnt ways to help manage her mental health and express her emotions in a healthy way. In 2018 she joined headspace Geelong’s Youth Future Crew to give back to the community and to support her mental wellbeing.
In her position as a headspace Youth National Reference Group member, Nicole wants to inspire and empower others to seek help, see their own power and to know that no matter how you feel it’s valid.
Nicole identifies as part of the LGBTIQA+ community and is a strong advocate for self-care.. She keeps mentally healthy through yoga, exercise, gaming, spending time in nature and reaching out for extra help when needed.
As well as being dedicated to human rights and the environment, Nicole loves to cosplay. She loves being able to bring joy to others and see their faces light up.
Three years ago, Steven had surgery on his left eye and was told he may not be able to see again. Combined with dealing with family circumstances, he experienced a period of depression. Steven thought that the use of alcohol would help improve his wellbeing, but it didn’t.
Steven attended headspace Murray Bridge where the assistance of his counsellors enabled him to overcome his mental health challenges and become more aware of how commonly the pressures of life can affect someone.
In his position as a headspace Youth National Reference Group member, he hopes to get people talking about mental health and believes if he can help just one person, then he’s making a difference.
Apart from advocating for youth mental health, Steven enjoys wearing patterned socks and also says his mates think he looks like the Honey Badger (Nick Cummings) off the Bachelor!
When Teasha was going through her own lived experience with mental ill health, she did not have the support or knowledge to access help. After experiencing a traumatic period in her life, she received counselling support where she learnt tips on how to manage her mental health.
Some of the self-care strategies Teasha uses is kickboxing, listening to music and taking lush bath-bomb baths.
Teasha feels passionate about making a contribution to headspace and joined her local headspace youth reference group at Liverpool before joining the headspace National Youth Reference Group.
As a headspace National Youth Reference Group member, Teasha hopes to be a voice to represent those who do not have the support and resources to seek help. She hopes to reduce stigma around mental ill health and will continue to advocate for more headspace services that anyone is comfortable to access.
Teasha loves dogs and cats (not one or the other!) and hopes one day to own a cat and a dog and raise them as best friends.
Gill is one of our Youth Advisors, is currently a psychology student and is passionate about helping people. Three years ago, Gill joined their local headspace Youth Reference Group in order to fulfil that passion. Being a part of the Youth Reference Group opened Gill’s eyes to being a Peer Worker. Gill worked to develop the peer workforce at their local headspace Early Psychosis program. While being a Peer Worker can have its challenges, Gill finds it rewarding work and promotes the importance of peer work in the youth mental health sector.
Gill went through some difficult times in high school, mostly around coping with the amount of work and family expectations. After some hesitation, Gill reached out to their school counsellor, who pointed them in the directed of headspace. Following their experience on their local Youth Reference Group, Gill was a hY NRG member across the 2017/19 term. As a Youth Advisor, Gill supports the current hY NRG members across their term.
When they get the time, Gill is a huge table top gamer – their favourite games include Dominion and Catan.
May Lyn is one of our Youth Advisors and is passionate about having positive mental health conversations and increasing mental health awareness in cultural and linguistically diverse communities.
May Lyn started to become unwell in primary school, finding it extremely challenging to deal with the competition to get into ‘academically gifted’ streams of education while also trying to figure out who she was and where she belonged between two cultures. As a first generation Australian, May Lyn feels like this a common experience for other young people like her. After a long time of seeking support May Lyn found headspace and soon became a member of her local Youth Reference Group. May Lyn felt like the staff at headspace understood her as a young person and cared about her as an individual.
Alongside studying to be a secondary teacher, May Lyn now supports the current hY NRG members after her experience as a hY NRG member in 2017/19. This allows May Lyn to continue following her passions while supporting other young people to do the same.
One of May Lyn’s life goals is to have a pet Shiba Inu!
Gus is one of our Youth Advisors and is passionate about young men’s mental health, and how alcohol and drugs can affect it.
When Gus was experiencing a period of depression he found it hard at first to reach out to someone for help. Gus had never been taught about mental illness and felt alone and isolated from the rest of the world. After reaching out to headspace Gus realised he wanted to change that stigma so people can feel safe enough to seek help.
Following visiting headspace, Gus joined his local youth reference group and then became a part of hY NRG for the 2017/19 term. Gus now supports the current hY NRG members as a youth advisor.
Outside of his advocacy work, Gus has a passion for martial arts and is a second dan black belt in Taekwondo.
Pheobe is one of our Youth Advisors and is passionate about eating disorder prevention including educating service providers and schools in promoting healthy body image, and being able to identify early warning signs of eating disorders. After accessing headspace services, Pheobe’s biggest motivator for getting involved with headspace and youth mental health is to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health. Pheobe also has an interest in recovery from trauma, and incorporating consumer voice into service delivery.
Pheobe has had a lived experience of anorexia and bulimia that developed at the age of 12. While it took a while to find a clinician she clicked with, Pheobe worked with a team of services that have been beneficial to her recovery. Pheobe is now an avid lived experience speaker, using her lived experience to inspire others in their recovery and to upskill clinicians in eating disorders. She currently also conducts research in this area, and was part of a large randomised controlled trial evaluating Media Smart, a universal eating disorder prevention program.
Pheobe jumped into mental health advocacy by volunteering with her local Youth Reference Group, before joining the 2017/19 hY NRG term. Alongside her work as a Youth Advisor to the current hY NRG members, Pheobe is undertaking her Masters in Clinical Psychology and is an Australian Mental Health Leaders Fellow with the National Mental Health Commission. Pheobe’s dedication to improving mental health outcomes saw her as a finalist in the 2018 WA Young Achiever Awards, where she hopes to continue influencing positive change in the Australian community.
Interestingly Pheobe’s name is spelt ‘Pheobe’ with an ‘eo’ instead of the usual ‘oe’. This is because her dad was rushing for work when she was born and misspelt it.