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Success - This program was delivered across 10 participating schools in 2019-2020
10 secondary schools in the Ballina State Electorate participated
Over 1700 Students accessed a teen MHFA Course
Over 60 school staff and volunteers accessed a Youth MHFA Course

With thanks to the NSW Government - My Community Project Grants, Byron Youth Service and each participating school community

Press Release - August 2019

Byron Youth Service and Safer Communities have collaborated to apply for a NSW My Community Projects grant that would see the highly acclaimed and evidence based teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA) program delivered in every secondary school in the Ballina State Government Electorate. If successful the program would be offered to every student in Year 7 and Year 10 in the following schools throughout 2020.


Byron Bay High School

Alstonville High School

Cape Byron Rudolph Steiner School

Biala Special School

Mullumbimby High School

Emmanuel Anglican College

Shearwater Rudolph Steiner School

Richmond Christian College

Ballina Coast High School

Xavier Catholic College Ballina


If we are successful over 1500 students would be able to access this program in 2020, every student in any school in Years 7 and 10. The program also has provision for 40 teachers to access the Youth MHFA program that educates adults who live or work with teenagers about mental illness and how to assist young people experiencing distress.


Teen MHFA was developed by Mental Health First Aid Australia in 2014 to bring MHFA programs to adolescents, a time when many people are first experiencing a mental illness or mental health crisis. The program educates young people in how to recognise a mental health problem or crisis in a friend and to support their friend. Importantly the program teaches adolescents to notify a parent, teacher or trusted adult if their friend is in a crisis such as having suicidal thoughts, self-injuring or experiencing bullying or abuse.


MHFA programs were developed in Australia in 2000 and have been widely recognised as effective programs for all members of the public to build their mental health literacy – to aid in recognition of Mental Illnesses and offer effective support to a friend, family member or workmate experiencing a mental health problem or crisis. MHFA programs are now taught in over 25 countries and over 3 million adults have been trained. Recently Lady Gaga has funded the implementation of the teen MHFA program in American Schools – helping this program to spread its wings and support millions of adolescents in the USA. Other significant supporters of this program include Michelle and Barak Obama who have both made speeches discussing the benefits of MHFA programs.


Mark Smith, who has been working in NSW government schools for over two decades has been delivering MHFA programs for 10 years, and was the first MHFA Instructor in the world to deliver a public teen MHFA program, at Byron Bay High School in 2014. Mark now runs Safer Communities and is delivering MHFA programs in our region and beyond. In 2019 Safer Communities partnered with Byron Bay Rotary to fund the teen MHFA at Byron Bay High School and Cape Byron Rudolph Stiner School. This generous support of teen MHFA by Byron Bay Rotary saw 180 Year 10 students at both school access tMHFA. In 2020 we now want to bring this program to every school in our region.


With the help of local media, school communities and the general public we can make this dream a reality.


NSW My Community Projects are decided in a democratic process that any person over the age of 16 in the Ballina State Government area can vote in. Details of this project can be found at

By voting for this project our community bring a very worthwhile educational program that directly addresses Mental Illness issues for adolescents in our community. The positive ripple effect of this program across the community can be a powerful protective factor around the compelling data relating to Mental Illness in adolescents. Suicide is leading cause of death among young people in our community and across Australia, eight Australians are dying by suicide every day and too many of these deaths are people aged under 18. Adolescents have very high rates of suicide attempts, and this can often occur unnoticed by adults who could support a young person experiencing a mental health crisis. Teen MHFA can have an impact on this confronting data and help us to make our schools and communities safer for vulnerable teenagers.


The following contacts are able to provide further information for media about this exciting project


Mark Smith

Owner and Principal of Safer Communities

0413 684 350


Rosalie Bryantt

Project Coordinator at Byron Youth Service

0431 524 044 / 02 6685 7777

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