Tearing through barriers

MALE students at Melville Senior High School were left in tears by a confronting class this week — and they can’t wait to do it again.

The 15/16-year-olds were taking part in Tomorrow Man, a suicide prevention program which challenges the stereotype of the silent, stoic male and encourages them to speak honestly and deeply with their mates about issues affecting their lives.

Harrison Stewart took part in the session and says it really opened his eyes to the challenges some of his classmates face.

“There were guys who you have seen fighting open up to each other,” he said.

• Melville student Harrison Stewart talks with Tomorrow Man presenters Ryder Susman and Zac Prior.

He had no idea about a major issue affecting a friend he’s known for two years, and says the insight will help all the cohort more attuned to helping him out when needed.

He expects the schoolyard joshing will be toned down now the boys a greater understanding of the challenges each faces, and are already checking how each other is travelling by taking careful note of the nods across the playground.

The year 11 student has had to grapple with two suicides in the last 18 months; earlier this year a Melville student took his own life, while Harrison’s brother had been best mates with Kai Eardley, a popular East Fremantle youngster who died in 2016 after suffering depression.

Harrison says it was heartbreaking watching his brother suffer in the following months, and wishes he’d had the skills he picked up this week so they could have opened up and supported each other through the dark times.

Following Kai’s death his family set up the Kai Eardley Foundation to tackle mental health issues affecting young men.

Tomorrow Man workshop host Zac Prior says when Kai’s mum Claire reached out to his organisation over east, they were happy to make the trip over.

Mr Prior says the hosts walk a fine line between seeming cool so the boys can look at them as role models and being able to talk about emotional stuff freely.

He says one way to get through is to play on the fact guys like to challenge rules, so showing the boys stereotypes are unwritten rules encourages them to break through them.

The workshops regularly deal with issues like depression, drug issues at home, social media, porn and sexuality.

Melville’s session appeared to go down extremely well; less than an hour later the teens were talking about running their own regular sessions once the Tomorrow Man team heads back east.

by STEVE GRANT

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